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National Building Code updated

With building activity uncontrolled in cities NBC 2005 has become highly relevant

After elaborate deliberations and comprehensive analysis by18 expert panels involving nearly 400 experts in various fields the National Building Code (NBC) has been recently updated to cover the latest provisions for building construction. The National Building Code of India is a comprehensive single document providing standards required by civil and structural engineers, architect, construction contractors, flat-promoter, service professionals and other professionals. NBC provides guidelines for use from the early stages of planning to make it a reality. The various Indian Standards and Special Publications of the Bureau of Indian Standards are compiled together as one single volume in 11 parts.

Revisions and updating

The NBC was first released in 1970 and became the authoritative standard for the construction industry. The NBC was revised in 1983, twice in 1987 and once again in 1997. Consequent to the experience gained during disasters like Orissa cyclone and Gujarat earthquake, and considering various rapid developments in the field of construction technologies it was decided to update the code with rigorous and durable standards for India. The NBC 2005 was updated and released in September 2005.

Critical standards

Owing to the need to provide safe and durable structures involving rapid urbanisation and increased construction activity in and around Chennai, the NBC 2005 has become highly relevant for adoption. In the light of the uncontrolled building activity in many congested city roads, especially inthe urbanised housing sector, NBC 2005 is the most critical code of practice.

The NBC has been amended and improved very significantly. Therefore it becomes necessary for everyone involved in, or associated with the building construction to be thorough with the various provisions of NBC both from professional and legal perspective.

Thematic concept

The whole code has been built around the four pillars of safety, 1. Structural safety

2. Health safety 3. Fire safety and 4.Public safety. (This includes electrical safety during construction.)

The provisions of the whole code have been oriented towards performance giving full freedom to the ingenuity of the architects, engineers and planners. On occasions the performance-oriented clauses have been simplified into empirical rules for easy implementation.

As this code is intended to regulate the building construction activity for the whole country, it will be applicable to corporations, local urban bodies, public works departments and other departments or agencies dealing with construction. Therefore, the administrative byelaws and technical provisions required in these regulatory media have been included in the code.

The information available in 11 parts are given below:

Integrated Approach



DCR and General Building Practices and safety outdoor requirements

Fire and Life safety

Building Materials

Structural Design Signs,


Building Services Display

Plumbing Services Structure


The important aspects covered are:

Integrated approach through multi-disciplinary team work to obtain maximum benefit in terms of quality timely completion and cost-effectiveness through using appropriate knowledge and experience of qualified professionals right from conceptualisation to design construction and completion stages of a building project and indeed for the entire life cycle of the building including demolition and disposal.

Administrative provisions, which pertain to the efficiency and effective application of the code defining powers, duties and responsibilities of those concerned.

Requirements to ensure safety from structural instability, fire and health hazards related to the occupancy and use of the building.

Stipulations with regard to the use of traditional and new building materials and techniques from consideration of safety, performance durability and friendliness to the physically challenged and economy.

Design practices for structures as a whole using materials like reinforced, pre-stressed concrete, steel, timber, bamboo masonry, etc. and guidelines for design of prefabricated structures and composite construction including loads, load combinations and forces due to natural calamities such as cyclones and earthquakes to be considered.

Measures to ensure safety of workers and public during construction.

Safe and efficient design of lighting, ventilation electrical and allied installations such as air-conditioning, lifts and acoustic systems.

Requirements of water supply drainage and sanitation, solid waste management and design of water supply and drainage system in buildings and safety requirements for installation of gas supply. Provisions on rainwater harvesting.

Landscape planning and design, signs and outdoor display structures to ensure safety and quality of outdoor built environment.


The National Building Code of India is a model code for adoption of all construction agencies, PWDs, local bodies and Corporations. The existing departmental codes and municipal byelaws and other regulatory media can either be replaced by the NBC 2005 or suitably modified to fulfil local conditions in accordance with the provisions of the code.

In case of municipalities and other local bodies which are the agencies to regulate the building activity within their jurisdiction (of cities and towns) it is the administrative and byelaw provisions for the health safety aspects which should mainly constitute the coverage of their byelaws. This is covered in Parts 2,3,4,5 and 10 of the NBC. In the case of PWD of the state and centre, MES, Railways and other Government construction agencies the whole NBC will be applicable and can be adopted either as it is or with certain modifications to account for local requirements.

In case of other construction agencies like public sector projects, the whole code will be of immense use and thus applicable and implementation of the complete code would result in substantial economy without sacrificing safety.

Private construction agencies should make full use of the code and academic institutions should include the code in the syllabi and disseminate the information to all concerned.

The adoption of the code will pave the way for a safer and more responsive society.


The author is Emeritus Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras and former Dean, Anna University.

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