Strong cyclone wind causes glass pane to fall off Wadala high-rise

Updated: Jun 06, 2020, 07:39 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Strong cyclone wind loosed glass; incident raises security concerns among building's residents; call one-year rectification work on glass facade 'flawed'

A pane of the glass facade of  the 65-storey Bombay Dyeing ICC tower came loose and crashed to the ground
A pane of the glass facade of the 65-storey Bombay Dyeing ICC tower came loose and crashed to the ground

A major disaster was averted in Wadala's 65-storey Bombay Dyeing ICC tower when a piece of the glass facade from one of its top floors came crashing down in the compound on the day Cyclone Nisarga hit the western coast of Maharashtra. Some parts of the city had witnessed gusty winds and heavy downpour on Wednesday.

While no one was injured in the incident, it has raised serious safety concerns among residents of high-rises. "It could have fallen right on my terrace. There is a serious implementation flaw in the glass facade. It is a complete failure; the one year taken for the building's repair (by the developer) was a long time. The rectification was a patchwork," upset residents expressed over their internal communication network.

"Let's demand a proper facade audit from an external agency or go the legal way," the message read as a locked window from one of the floors came off and shattered on the ground below. "Anybody could have been hurt on the podium, so many of us walk there," the message read.

'Builders must consult experts'

Senior property lawyer Vinod Sampat said that some residents had also complained of rainwater seeping into their flats from the glass facade areas.

"The monsoon is yet to arrive and if timely action is not taken, residents will have a tough time. Pieces of the glass façade have fallen earlier too. Builders give importance to exterior elevations but when glass facades are put up, one has to be extra vigilant. Even a small piece of glass falling off could be dangerous," said Sampat, adding that builders should consult with experts regularly.

"Unfortunately, we hardly have any data regarding the maintenance of glass façade buildings in India. They could possess a fire hazard too, especially on higher floors."

Senior Architect Deepak Mehta told mid-day that a glass facade building, especially high-rises, "is a science in itself." He said that hasty construction without proper on-site test checking could be a reason for accidents. "Tempered glass expands/ contracts due to weather or heavy winds. Thermal stress is also an issue," said Mehta, adding that stress testing of glass panels for temperatures, movement of the building, the wind must be done.

'Need to be extra careful'

Lawyer Ajay Panicker who resides in Spring Tower inside the Bombay Dyeing Complex said that ICC 1 and 2 towers (ground plus 65 floors) are adjacent to his building.

"We had received intimation about the glass facade coming down heavily due to wind pressure. Because of the wind, the piece was thrown out of the podium, on to the internal road. A major incident was averted. This road is usually taken by residents and other staff working within the complex," said Panicker.

He added that the housekeeping staff could have left some windows towards the staircase open. "We have to be extra vigilant, especially during the monsoon. Careless attitude by the housekeeping staff can be dangerous. Office-bearers need to take extra precautions," said Panicker.

'Must withstand wind pressure'

P D Khargupikar, former Mumbai fire chief, said, "As far as glass façade buildings are concerned, the glass facade anchoring needs to be very strong and tested for high wind velocity, and water penetration to avoid any leakage. The strength of the glass façade should also be checked before the monsoon."

He said that the wind velocity changes every 30 metres (100 feet) and increases as we go higher. "The windows should not be kept open on any floor above 60 metres from the ground level," he said.

A BMC architect said that the approved design plan for glass facade buildings is usually to withstand a wind pressure of 150 km per hour. "The wind speed on the 'Nisarg' cyclone day was anticipated, it was much lesser," he said. The developer remained unavailable for comment.

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