THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The real estate industry, which has been battling the slowdown and the effects of the Maradu demolition issue, has been dealt another jolt in the form of new building rules. Several multi-crore development projects may be shelved while those in the planning stage will turn unviable following the sudden and “arbitrary” implementation of the new building rules in the state, said leading architects.
Worse, the new rules, which came into effect via a gazette notification dated November 2, will deal a severe blow to the state’s IT, healthcare and hospitality sectors as the new norms will leave them with 30 per cent lesser space for building in the same area compared to the earlier rule. This is because all amenities, including parking, lifts, recreational area, etc. in an apartment complex will come under the built-up area, completely omitting the concept of carpet area.
Some of the key points where the architects and the builders have objections in the new ‘Kerala Panchayat Building Rules, 2019’ are stipulation that setbacks (minimum open space required around a building) for top floors to be given on the ground floor itself, parking included underfloor area ratio (FAR, which is the total covered area of all floors divided by the plot area) and the omission of the concept of carpet area. The national and international rules consistently refer to carpet area, which is the actual usable area in any building, while in the new rules, all amenities such as recreational area are linked to built-up area.
For car parking in multiplexes and other similar space, the new rule says it should be based on built-up area compared to the earlier rule where it is calculated based on the number of seats, which was more practical.Lalichan Zacharias, national secretary of Indian Institute of Architects (IIA), said instead of following the Singapore model, which like Kerala faces land scarcity, the bureaucrats here have made a new set of rules, which puts huge pressure on land. “We have approached the political leadership and they are completely in the dark on the issue,” said Zacharias, who is a leading Kochi-based architect.
According to him, the bureaucrats said the new rules were introduced as the builders “make money by selling everything from lifts, recreational area, etc.” in residential apartments complexes.“In the process, they have forgotten that the same rules will put pressure on new constructions for software companies, hospitals and hotels,” said Zacharias. The biggest flaw in the new rule is the inclusion of parking under FAR, which means that the additional area used for providing parking will consume the FSI (Floor Space Index, which is the total covered area on all floors of all buildings on a certain plot).
S Gopakumar of Kumar Group, another leading architect, explained that the same land area accommodating 100 flats would now have just 70 flats. Or a software company, which could set up a 10,000 seat facility, could now build only space for 7,000 employees. “Simply put, those providing additional parking space are being penalised in the new rules,” he said.
According to Gopakumar, affordable housing projects will be the most affected under the new rules. “A `50-`70-crore school township project planned in Kochi has been scrapped due to lack of required access proposed in the new rules,” he said, explaining that the new rules make a 10-metre access road mandatory for large development while in the earlier rule two access roads above 5 metres would qualify. “At least `5-`8 lakh increase in price can be expected per flat,” he said, adding that the new rules will make the construction of multi-storeyed buildings costlier by at least 30 per cent.
He said the new rule proposes arbitrary powers to officials. “This creates opportunities for corruption and delay,” he reckoned. “In a place like Kerala, we need to focus on increasing the efficiency of land use. We should promote bigger buildings along the transport corridors which are planned. But sadly, the opposite is true for the new rules proposed,” Gopakumar said.