The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) has called for the immediate evacuation of the residents of Jains Westminster Apartments in Chennai's Choolaimedu area. IIT-M has further said that all three blocks of the apartment complex must be demolished in a controlled manner. The apartment complex had in July, last year been in the news due to severe structural damage, endangering the lives of 500 families living in 17 storeys. IIT-M who had been tasked with investigating the cause for the deterioration by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) submitted its report on Friday, February 2.
IIT-M has also recommended reconstruction of the apartment complex to meet the desired standards of strength and durability (or desired service life. Suggesting that Block A and Block B, which are both in a more advanced stage of decay, are first demolished and reconstructed, the report adds that this can be carried out within a year. Further, the report recommends that Blocks B and C after reconstruction can be used to house all the present residents so that Block C can be constructed as stage two of the repair work. Lastly, the report also recommends that new construction material should be tested to meet the required standards.
In the report, IIT-M has highlighted that the main cause for the deterioration in the apartment complex was chloride-induced corrosion. The report explains that the use of chlorine-contaminated water during the mixing and curing of the concrete is the major reason for the building's present condition. The report also adds that use of poor concrete quality and inadequate cover depth have worsened the problem caused by the chlorine-contaminated water. IIT-M has also said that “excessively thick plaster had been used to inappropriately compensate for the insufficient concrete cover”.
The report confirms the CMDA’s earlier suspicion that the deterioration had occurred primarily due to chlorine-contaminated water. In July 2023, it came to light that the three blocks–A,B,C– of the 17 floors of Jains Westminster Apartments were severely structurally compromised. Multiple cracks and ceiling collapses had occurred between 2021 and 2023. When TNM visited the ground, it was discovered that even the lifts had become unsafe due to the extensive damages. TNM also found that the residents are living in fear with many unable to move out due to financial constraints. The complex contains a total of 660 units out of which 130 remain unsold. 500 families, which means close to 1500 people, lived in these flats under dangerous circumstances.
TNM also found that the builders–Jain Housing and Constructions–had been unresponsive. After further deterioration in July, residents filed a police complaint. Earlier, in 2022, the building association had collected funds worth nearly 500 crores from residents for repair. However only, partial repairs could be done to blocks A and B, before funds ran out.
In September 2022, the Madras High Court restricted the builders from selling more houses. Previously, in 2020, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) sealed the swimming pool as the pool was not included in the project when CMDA approved the plan. Residents told TNM that they had however been charged extra for pool-facing flats.
After TNM’s ground report, Jain Housing and Constructions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Jains Westminster Owners Welfare Association on August 14, promising to expedite the repair and renovation work. The MoU further stated that the builders would aim to complete the repair work within a stringent 12-month timeline.
WATCH: Residents of Chennai’s 17-storey residential complex fear for safety of their apartment