While glass façades on a building are known to be pleasing to the eye amidst the city’s concrete jungle, they have been known to cause hindrance to firefighters. While in 2013, the BMC had come up with specific façade guidelines for every new building, it seems that the regulations were put in place a little too late in case of the fire incident at Lotus Business Park.

Also read: One fireman killed, 20 injured in Andheri corporate tower blaze

Adding fuel to fire: Many experts believe that buildings with glass façade, like Lotus Business Park, generate more heat in case of fire, as there are fewer sources for ventilation. Pic/Suresh KK
Adding fuel to fire: Many experts believe that buildings with glass façade, like Lotus Business Park, generate more heat in case of fire, as there are fewer sources for ventilation. Pic/Suresh KK

On Friday, the glass façade became a major issue for fire officials, who struggled to come close to the building to continue the rescue, while pieces of glass were falling from it. According to officials, ventilation was another issue for firefighters engaged in dousing the flames. Even the people standing below the structure had to be moved from the area.

BMC guidelines
After several similar mishaps in the past, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) drafted specific façade guidelines for buildings in 2013. These guidelines were released after the fire in 2012 at First International Financial Centre, Bandra-Kurla Complex, where the glass structure made operations a mammoth task, and another fire in 2013 at IBL House in Andheri, which trapped over 30 people, and killed four in the incident.

According to the new regulations, every floor of high-rise buildings with glass façades should have an opening. The fire brigade made it mandatory for every building with a glass façade to have openings of at least five feet in height and width, facing the road at every floor. These openings should work from both inside and outside, so that people trapped inside can escape from it, and rescue workers can open it from outside.

It also mandated printing of ‘Emergency Exit’ labels on these openings, so that fire fighters don’t waste time hunting for access points.

The guidelines also state that the glass façades covering exit areas like staircases, lifts and corridors should also have openings and that the glass should be laminated and of high quality. It is also mandatory for every floor to have a water curtain system — a system with various nozzles which spray water over the entire area — which activates automatically and helps douse the fire.

Officialspeak
Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, said, “The buildings with a glass façade have been a problem, and we have been taking steps to reduce the risk in case of fire. However, these unfortunate incidents continue to occur and we will take serious action against any sort of irregularity.”

Ward Committee Chairman of K-West ward, Raju Pednekar, said, “The permission for such buildings should be stopped entirely, as there have been series of similar incidents. However, the BMC continues to give permission to such buildings.”

— Inputs by Neha LM Tripathi and Varun Singh