The urgent need for a Building Code for Sri Lanka
Posted on September 30th, 2020

A. Hettiarachchi

The recent unfortunate incident where three lives were lost due to a building collapse in Kandy prompted me to write this article.

About six months ago there was a ‘Question Time Meeting ‘ of a professional association allied to building construction industry held in Wijerama Mawatha in Colombo 7. The topic of that particular meeting was the construction of Shangrila Hotel Building. It was presented very well by one of the engineers responsible for the management aspect of the project.

At the end of the presentation, I put the question as to which code of practice the building was designed. There was no doubt as to whether the project has been designed well and what I wanted to know was which code has been used for the project. The presenter informed that a Hong Kong based consultancy had done the structural design, and with respect to the code he said it has been designed according to BS 8110 (British Standard No. 8110). I then asked why we stick to an old code even Britain has superseded, here in Sri lanka, there was no answer. It is not only the Structural Design Code (such as the Eurocode or the British code mentioned above) that is important for such a project but  other aspects such as Drainage, Sewerage, Roads, the aspects with regard to soil investigations etc are all included in a document called ‘Building Code’ and made into law by every responsible government in the world.  So I asked the question whether there is such a document existing in Sri Lanka. After a lapse of few minutes one lady got up and said that such a document is being prepared.

For such a document to be prepared  there is a need to put in the details of other codes as well and it is not possible to have it as there are no codes for any of the aspects mentioned above existing in our country as at now, as far as I know. Those foreign consultants that get the assignments for various projects do the design using whatever the criteria they can get hold of and get the building approval probably by various means just like in the case of the collapsed building in Kandy.

So, my appeal to the political authority is to get the mess with respect to authority approval of buildings sorted out and stream lined by having various codes prepared as soon as possible and fall in line with other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong etc in the region without further delay. I have observed from some CCTV footage that some of the road accidents that happen in our country are due to not adhering to the design principals in road widening etc.

3 Responses to “The urgent need for a Building Code for Sri Lanka”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    The problem is the ‘frogs in the well’ attitude of the Sri Lankan engineers. The knowledge is out ‘there’ in the outside world. There is no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’! What needs to be done is just to get the best practices and incorporate into SL Standards. With the experience so far during the last 75 years an enlightened leadership is requried to push through these reforms. It is now up to Vyath Maga and similar groupings of professionals to take the lead in highlighting what reforms are urgently needed.

    The nation expects much from the new administration in the months and years ahead.

    Quite apart from the 5 storey building that collapsed, what is more horrendous were the similarly constructed ‘sky scrapers’ in the same area – all potential disasters waiting to happen!

  2. aloy Says:

    As Ratnapala says there is no need to reinvent the wheel and there is no need to increase the number of controlling authorities either. The best practices of the region can be collected and put into a document that should include Mechanical and electrical aspects together with green concepts. The UDA itself with a large number of trained professionals can be made use of for the controlling aspects.

  3. Nimal Says:

    One can’t put up a building without getting permission of several departments, truly disgraceful. With all these obstacle a poor householder is locked up when his house collapsed on to another house.Poor chap not only his lost his house but his freedom and this is our intolerant Para culture.Can’t the idiots running the place that it is ‘an act of god’ which can’t be prevented where global warming is causing an utter severe chaotic situation with endless rains and endless droughts.
    With heavy rains the soil be come liquid and land slides are inevitable. Just like the intrusions by elephants there are difficult solutions to this problems where the government should help the people with money to over come this.
    I had a hugh landslide because the people above my land allowed the water to penetrate into the soil above my land that caused the instability in my land and it cost me millions to put things right.
    Municipality allows the heavy rain water to flow into the lands below and they could easily rectify this by building some drains on the roads which they are not willing to do.

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