Uncertainty looms over Kochi army towers restoration as HC orders structural audit by Bengaluru IISc

Chander Kunj Army Towers at Silver Sand Island, Vyttila. Photo: Onmanorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has ordered a structural audit of the Chanderkunj Army Towers at Silver Sand Island in Vyttila by the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and sought the premier institute’s views on the proposed plan to retrofit the buildings in distress.

The high court issued the order on a petition moved by Col (retd) Ciby George, a resident of the army towers who has been alleging that the poor quality of the construction has left towers B and C of the apartment complex irreparable.

Justice Mohammed Nias C P, in an order dated June 19, 2024, said IISc, Bengaluru should conduct a structural audit and also offer its views on the expert report filed by the Bureau Veritas India Pvt. Ltd. The institute has been asked to focus on the specific methods/technologies suggested in the retrofitting plan, including its technical, practical and economic feasibility. It should also offer its expert views including the pros and cons of the proposed retrofitting. “The IISc will also indicate the current approximate cost for putting up new similar structures at the property in question,” the order said.

Bureau Veritas was engaged by AWHO after residents complained of the poor quality of the construction. “All parties, including the Army Welfare Housing Organisation, the Residents Welfare Association, and the District Collector, agree that the subject apartment complex is in serious structural distress and requires immediate attention. The building's structural stability is adversely affected requiring urgent corrective measures,” the court order noted.

The court chose the Bengaluru Institute to conduct the structural audit as its Department of Civil Engineering figured as a common choice of the petitioner, the AWHO project director and the residents association. Col George had originally suggested the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras to carry out the structural assessment of the buildings.

The court said consent has been obtained from IISc through the deputy solicitor general in-charge. “The court ordered that given the precarious position of the subject buildings and the gravity of the situation, the IISc should submit its report as soon as possible, but not later than 45 days from the date of receipt of a copy of the court order. The remuneration/expenses of the IISc should be borne by the project director.

On March 29, the district collector of Ernakulam, N S K Umesh, ordered the retrofitting of the Army Towers at Silver Sand Island within 10 months. The collector ordered that all the residents of the B and C towers of the residential complex should be evacuated under the supervision of the Army Welfare Housing Association (AWHO), which constructed the buildings for serving and retired army people.

Following this, AWHO submitted a report detailing its retrofitting plan to the Kerala High Court recently. The restoration work is expected to be completed in 21 months. However, the AWHO is promising a guarantee of only 10 years for the apartments even after the works, raising concerns among a section of flat owners. 

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