Fragile Foundations: Infra @ IITB

insightmastheadPANELISTS: ANEES VP, ANURAG CHAFALE, APRAJIT LOHAN, CHANDNI RAJENDRAN, GARRY FERRAO, HIMANI MEHTA, MIHIR BHOSALE, SUMIT SHEKHAR

 

As the institute struggles to deal with the growing number of students on one hand, and budget cuts on the other, the struggle is reflected in the infrastructure found herein. To add to that, Mumbai’s weather is moderately hot and highly humid, and poses a significant challenge in structural integrity. Many structures in the institute, like hostels, VMCC, Workshop Bays, and Infinity Corridor face various problems, especially in the monsoon. It is essential that IIT-B’s image as the premier institute of our country with the best of infrastructure be maintained and all steps be taken by the authorities for this. We aim at exploring the causes and effects of these issues and institute policies formulated thence.

Crumbling Hostels

h9-room

Recently, in H9, the bottom layer of a patch of the room’s ceiling fell down all of a sudden, dropping debris on a student’s laptop (thankfully he wasn’t present there then, and hence was not injured), leaving the reinforcing rebar exposed, which seemed rusted. Previously, an entire balcony in H2 had collapsed, with thankfully no injuries.

While it is understandable that these hostel buildings are pretty old and need and undergo maintenance, dangerous incidents like the ones above leave the status of the safety of hostels hanging in the mind of students. Structural integrity is the study of the safe design and assessment of structures against the failure caused due to weather condition, external deal load, and design limitations and such tests need to be done on hostel buildings from time to time.

Many structures in the institute, like hostels, VMCC, Workshop Bays, and Infinity Corridor face various problems, especially in the monsoon.

Major leakage issues were experienced within a year of construction in H15 and 16. There were problems with the drainage system, including improper slopes in bathrooms and easily clogging drains. Clearly, the contractor has not done a satisfactory job with respect to quality and overall finishing.

Presently, the hostels 4, 5, 6, and 7 have false walls in the rooms which will be soon converted to proper walls and major reconstruction work is going to be done in H4 and H8. It has been observed that the last wing of H7 has started to sink. H7 will be replaced by a building similar to hostels 17 and 18, which have received permission for construction and are awaiting sanction of funds.

Along with the structural issues highlighted above, there lies an even more pertinent problem – that of capacity. Accommodation issues faced at the beginning of semesters have become a start-of-the-year norm. There are two reasons: firstly, the student intake has increased, and secondly, the temporary hostel arrangements which are made towards the beginning of the semester. This process takes a long time – till the month of September at the least – for the issues to be resolved smoothly. There is a need for proper planning methods/systems.

Since there are issues like limited space in the institute, coupled with increasing number of students, the only way to manage this situation is by going vertical with double loaded corridors. Hence all the new hostels henceforth will be made using this design unlike the buildings of H12, 13, and 14 which use up much more space.

It is estimated that the construction of hostels 17 and 18 will need 2 years to finish. It will be a 1000 single room building for students, along with 12 double room twin sharing basis with the intention of providing for parent’s stay if required. One of these two hostels will be built between H5 and H9 and one will be built between H8 and H7. The allocation to single rooms of the hostels and the new hostels will be done based on a Common Seniority List (CSL).

How are contractors hired?

Contractors for building hostels are selected on the basis of the lowest bid made by them after floating quotations. A team of Dean IPS, Associate Dean IPS, OSD and experts are responsible for overlooking the construction of new hostels. After the plan has been proposed, they review it and freeze the designs, send out quotations, and during the construction process too, they have regular site visits and review discussions. Efforts are being made to make all the new hostels as eco-friendly as possible, like solar heaters in H15, 16 etc.

The VMCC Verdict

The Victor Menezes Convention Centre was inaugurated in 2011 and is used as a venue for conferences and lectures. Considering that many of the dignitaries that are invited to IITB come to VMCC, it does not serve to create a good impression, given the PoP (Plaster of Paris) work deteriorating in many places, and the lack of weather protection on the side facing Hillside Road.

Top two floors of the building house laboratories of Civil Engineering. However, as per the opinion of many regular users of the building, it is not designed properly for the harsh monsoon conditions of Mumbai, and though the Institute is spending lots of money on maintenance, it seems to be futile.

It is estimated that the construction of hostels 17 and 18 will need 2 years to finish. It will be a 1000 single room building for students, along with 12 double room twin sharing basis with the intention of providing for parent’s stay if required.

The canopy, which was the architectural identity of the building, collapsed in last year’s monsoon season, but till this date has not been restored. It was supposed to protect the building from heavy rain but it hardly served that purpose. Due to this, many of the laboratories on top floor get exposed to rain.

Heavy PoP work done on roofs of open foyers is deteriorating and some parts have already collapsed due to rain exposure. This has already affected the ambiance of the building (the problem with external PoP work is also found in the refurbished PCSA, where the foyer shows stains already). Secondly, pigeons use this PoP work for shelter, which creates nuisance (usually PoP is used for interior decoration and not for exterior as it deteriorates drastically when exposed). To avoid these failures, the Institute erects temporary structures which stop the monsoon rain which is main cause for them.

The building also has a central air cooling system which fails to provide proper cooling at top floors and there is condensation leakage from its pipelines, leading to deterioration of the false ceilings in the rooms.

New CSE and Computer Center Building

While it is a good thing to match the infrastructural level of institute with the rest of the world, the environmental aspect of construction must not be ignored while doing this. The New Computer Center which is under construction has architecture which, instead of paint, uses white PVC cladding on the outer side of the walls, which makes the building attractive and also helps in maintaining optimum temperature inside the building across the year.

However, the use of such wall cladding generates more heat in surrounding areas due to high degree of reflection of sun rays. This might have an adverse effect on the surrounding environment. This building also seems to have very few openings and windows for sunlight to enter, and the result is a larger consumption of electricity and lighting during the day.

Workshop Bays

Workshop bays are few of the oldest buildings in institute. During monsoon, roofs of the buildings are covered with plastic sheets to avoid leakage from roof. It seems that these buildings are hardly ever painted and have not been made weather proof. Usually, buildings in heavy monsoon areas must be painted every 2 to 3 years to ensure that they are protected from damage.

Infinity Corridor

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Infinity corridor is one of the most iconic structures in the institute. However, the state of the corridor is extremely unsightly and seemingly dangerous. Many parts of corridor are supported by scaffolding of steel rods and wood which means this structure can collapse any time if the support is removed. The deteriorating condition of the corridor near Mechanical Engineering and also the library is fairly well known. The roof of the corridor is of the form of undulating triangles spanning the corridor transversely, and this may not be the most efficient design to get rid of the rainfall. Other than this, the corridor faces leaks during the monsoon and has also seen spalling in many places with the rebar visible. Again, direct exposure of structure reinforcement to weather is weakening the structure.

The floor of the corridor is very slippery during monsoons, and may cause minute accidents to pedestrians. Some tiles have also come off or have broken down in parts of the corridor. This has also made movement around there extremely difficult for students on wheelchairs. According to some of the institute’s physically disabled students, the corridor is impossible and dangerous to use during monsoon.

However, this could change in some time. Plans for refurbishing the corridor have been made and comments on the plan were invited by Dean Planning in December 2015. Part of the plan – the corridor between Workshop Bays and Library as well as the new shed-like construction which shall house a coffee shop – are already in place. Further, this plan seeks to strengthen the Arch and perhaps rebuild the corridor around Mechanical Engineering department and the Library.

Poor Footpaths

The condition of the footpaths at many locations is also deplorable. During the monsoon these footpaths become slippery because of moss, and the institute’s solution is to use bleaching powder to reduce the slipperiness. This is a temporary arrangement, as well as being irritating with the heavy chlorine stench around the footpath.

Last year, new lamp posts were installed beside the foot paths on some streets. Near H7, however, due to poor foundations of lamp post, some of them began bending slowly from base and destroyed the adjacent footpath. No notice was taken by any official authority till the lamp posts actually collapsed on the paths.

Another problem with construction is debris being strewn on footpaths and not being picked up for long. This sometimes occurs near areas with heavy student footfalls (e.g. the road between LCH and PCSA-Civil) and can also be an impediment to safety, let alone being a nuisance.

However, the constructive work done by the Institute cannot also be ignored. IIT Bombay boasts of a significantly large number of footpaths with ramps which make them very accessible to students with special needs. New footpaths near SoM/Convocation Hall are being built as of January. New footpaths have also been built beside H10 and near H15 and it is hoped that the institute takes such examples ahead.

New Bus Stops

The permanent bus stops were constructed which helped save money that was annually spent on temporary bus stops sheds. The newly built bus stop for Hostel-12-13-14 collapsed within a short span after the construction. The cause is still not known. However, this bus stop was reconstructed with similar design, thereby leaving no guarantee of a possible collapse in the near future.

Lack of Facilities

Not all the buildings are easily accessible to people with special needs. The entry to the SAC can be improved for better access to people with special needs. There is also a prevailing lighting problem in the institute’s premises. Many students like taking a stroll in the campus, and keeping in mind the general safety concerns of students, better lighting solutions need to be used, especially near places like IDC.

Issues with the Construction Process

Construction causes severe noise which turns out to be distracting and a cause of hindrance. Reconstruction of labs and offices is not planned efficiently, which leads to research students and professors lacking the space to work. Often, safety precautions are not in place, with live electric cables are all over the place, for example. There ought to be signs in place indicating areas where construction is going on (especially with respect to minor construction and maintenance work), so that there are no accidents.

While there is a large amount of work left to be done on various fronts as the Institute yearns for a spot amongst the top universities in the world, it should be known that crumbling hostels and corridors don’t really go well with that image.

It has been seen that there are problems after a newly built structure is finished. After H15 was constructed, the work for H16 was going on. However, for an entire year there was no properly paved road leading to H16. Similarly, the road leading to H15’s gate (the position of the gate of the hostel has now been shifted) was strewn with potholes, making walking to the hostel very difficult during the rains. The new Gymkhana building also has an improper finish with respect to the connecting road. Last year, large ponds of water had accumulated just outside the compound wall of the new SAC building, which clearly indicated a lack of sufficient drainage offered there.

Building the Institute’s Image

While there is a large amount of work left to be done on various fronts as the Institute yearns for a spot amongst the top universities in the world, it should be known that crumbling hostels and corridors don’t really go well with that image. The immensity of the task of maintaining such a huge institute is of course, a challenge. However, this won’t help one deny the situation on ground – further hostel collapses and leaky and creaky living spaces, more students inhumanely stuffed into hostels, and a general lack of aesthetic.

It’s not all hopeless, though. With the new H10 being constructed, UG girls can finally look forward to single rooms in their last year just like the guys, while the new IITB-Monash Centre looks extremely pleasing. These are just a couple of examples where the institute has taken steps, and it would be great if good infrastructure is something one could look forward to in the near future.

InsIghT Team

InsIghT Team

This article was contributed by the Insight team. Insight is the official student media body of the IIT Bombay. Insight is currently the only active official media body in the institute run voluntarily by students.
InsIghT Team

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This article was contributed by the Insight team. Insight is the official student media body of the IIT Bombay. Insight is currently the only active official media body in the institute run voluntarily by students.

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