Wednesday, September 3, 2008

DDA draws up new flat plan




New Delhi, February 10 After churning out the ubiquitous cream-yellow, box-like flats across the Capital for years, the Delhi Development Authority has finally acknowledged the need for change. In an attempt to compete with private builders, the agency now plans to give its housing societies a much-required makeover.

Besides its own designs, DDA has decided to hire private consultants to draw up new designs for flats across the spectrum — for high-income group (HIG), middle-income group (MIG), low-income group (LIG), and janta flats.

“We have to be responsive to the market and are looking at extensive redesigning,” said Dinesh Rai, the former DDA vice-chairman under whose tenure the makeover began. “We have been working towards it for some time now and have already engaged private architects and external experts. This (change) will be done for group-housing societies and, besides the flats, there is an emphasis on green areas and parking spaces — these are a priority for us, unlike private developers, who may not take the same approach.”

Rai said the new DDA residential complexes will “also be much taller, in accordance with the Masterplan”.

Senior officials in the architecture department admit that the problem so far with DDA flats is the quality of building material used. “Poor, sub-standard material was often used, especially in LIG and janta flats,” an official from DDA’s architecture department said. “In all DDA societies — be it HIG, MIG or LIG flats — there were certain wholesale problems: like the windows would either not open, or once opened would not shut; the paint used was of inferior quality and would often peel off; common spaces and stairwells were not resident-friendly, especially to senior citizens.”

In the offing but given increasing competition, these are issues that the DDA can no longer take lightly, officials said. The problems are being addressed: in the form of redesigned windows, wider common spaces (space between flats and stairwells has been increased from 3 to 4.5 meters). Then, as per plans, stairs will be broader and their height will be reduced to aid senior citizens.

A tile- or brick-finish is also in the offing for a better finish and longevity of the buildings’ exterior, officials explained. “Another major design change is, in earlier flats there were lots of corners and irregular angles that gave residents scope for a great deal of additional construction,” the official said. “This led to violations and encroachment on common spaces. The new design would negate that by “using straight lines”.

And instead of the by now insipid cream-yellow and pink coat on the exteriors, different housing societies will have different colour schemes.

Officials said DDA has got a committee of private architects on its panel; they have helped draw up these broad guidelines. “Our flats are likely to be better than builder-flats as we will engage private players who can develop their own designs and, being a government agency, also follow strict structural safety guidelines.”

Criticising the archetypal DDA flats, Gautam Bhatia, the renowned city-based architect and author of several books, said they come to one’s notice primarily due to poor construction quality, with plaster chipping and falling off. “As a result, even minor repairs become major headache for residents,” Bhatia said. “They are also designed with minimum space value, so the quantity of bedrooms becomes more important than what the flat looks like.”

Many people, he said, feel DDA has thus compromised with space utilisation. “Shared areas in these flats — like staircases, driveways, entrance lobbies and such — are also an issue.”

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