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New fire safety norms for existing Mumbai glass facade buildings

They may have replaced the textile mills and become a symbol of Mumbai’s vertical growth, but the glitzy high-rises with glass facades in the city have attained the dubious distinction of turning into deathtraps during fires. In its bid to make these buildings safe, the Mumbai Fire Brigade has drawn up a slew of guidelines for glass facade structures that came up before 2012.

Owners must provide smoke seal/ barriers between the building wall and facade on every floor level in the form of non-combustible material/vermiculite cement, according to the new norms. People should be able to open glass panes blocking staircases, lift lobby and corridors. Pressurised system of the staircase/ lobby should be synchronised with glass facade window opening mechanism.

The rules also recommended that a minimum 2.5 per cent of the floor area of each compartment on every floor should be utilised in such a manner that they can be cleared immediately in case of emergencies.

Fire officials want the refuge area to be built above the height of 1.2 metres from the flooring level. If covered with glass facade, one should be able to access it from directions.

Deputy chief fire officer P Rahangdale said his department will insist that the owner of pre-2012 buildings comply with the new guidelines. “In a week, we will coordinate with thedevelopment planning department and issue letters to existing glass facade structures, directing them to comply with the measures within 120 days.”

A fire in a commercial high-rise at Bandra-Kurla Complex in September 2012 had prompted the BMC to come up with regulations for upcoming glass facade structures. But the rules were silent on existing buildings.

The civic body was compelled to pay serious attention to the issue after a blaze struck Lotus Business Park, an eight-year-old skyscraper in Andheri (West), in July 2014. The incident had claimed one fireman’s life and injured 20. Firefighters struggled for hours to control the fire as the building had violated many safety norms.

The fire department is yet to prepare an exact record of the number of glass facade buildings in the city.Motilal_Oswal

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