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Making safety a priority
NST-PROP 10/7/2004

Lashed by monsoon rains, sun-baked over years of neglect and ravaged by time, some 38 abandoned projects in Kuala Lumpur alone, costing RM2 billion, still stand a chance to be revived - if the situation improves for their owners or if they are taken over by white knights.

However, how safe for revival are these weathered buildings? Can their foundations still hold after years of neglect? Will the piling stand the added weight of bricks and mortar?

Purchasers of such projects should not have cause for concern as there are adequate legislative powers to ensure the structural integrity of abandoned buildings that are being revived.

These powers are contained under the Streets, Drainage and Buildings Act as well as in the planning requirements of the local authorities.

A spokesperson from the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) said under the Act, a project that has been abandoned for more than three months cannot be revived without prior approval from the local authority.

The developer would have to submit detailed information on the building’s new plan, its structural information and other reports required by the local authority before permission to resume work can be granted.

Besides these regulations, there are other provisions made for the safety of structures under planning rules and building by-laws.

For instance, when an abandoned project is revived, civil and structural engineers need to carry out a series of tests to ensure the safety of the site and the structures on it, said the president of the Institution of Engineers, Malaysia, Prof Abang Abdullah Abang Ali.

In a project, there may be some structures that may no longer be deemed safe, and these would need to be demolished, he said.

In some cases, Prof Abang Abdullah said, deterioration in structural integrity could be the direct result of improper construction.

“There are no grey areas when it comes to the issue of abandoned projects. The consulting engineers who carry out the testing at the site will decide whether to repair, strengthen or to demolish the structures,” he explained.

In the case of abandoned housing projects, timber structures, including doorframes that have been exposed to the elements, will have to be replaced.

Abandoned projects are blights on the landscape. If developers are consistent in sending bi-annual reports on all projects they undertake, as required under the Section 7F of the Housing Development Act, the problem of abandoned projects can be drastically reduced, said the National Housebuyers’ Association (HBA).

Its secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said: “The Ministry of Housing and Local Government would do well to ensure that developers comply with this regulation.”

Added HBA’s executive committee member Datuk Goh Seng Toh: “Abandoned housing projects are placing a heavy toll on the finances of the people. The Government should immediately take over these projects, using Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, and revive them.

“The Government should also investigate whether there has been misappropriation of funds in the form of progress payments made by the house buyers. Should this occur, then appropriate action should be taken against the developers concerned.”

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