Construction Planning Institute to be established

(08/12/2008)

The HCM City People’s Committee has just decided on the establishment of the Construction Planning Institute under the HCM City Institute of Research and Development.

Truong Minh Ngoc, architect, HCM City

There are many reasons behind recent problems with some high-rise buildings, including poor architectural designs, quality of construction, and management. In my opinion, the Vietnamese building code and construction standards are partly to blame. The high-rise building code can sometimes be too non-specific. So plans have to be amended by the designers. By approving these amendments, the authorities create many versions. For example, in the Ministry of Construction's Decision 26/2004/QB-BXD, the step size on staircases is a maximum 150mm (height) by 300mm (width). It's difficult to design like this and can lead to accidents. Vague regulations have led to variations in building standards, thus creating many problems for high-rise buildings. Similar unsuitable rules are easy to find in the Vietnamese high-rise building code, such as the ratio of carpark area to gross floor area of buildings, the slope of ramps, clearance heights in basements and so on. Inappropriate designs are still approved by authorities. There are similar problems with structural designs. Consequently, high-rise buildings have many problems while still on paper. In addition, the lack of good quality-assurance management has made the situation more serious. We must try and prevent problems from the designing stage. To do this, we must review the building code and set standards that must be followed.

Lawry Beetinyeo, Singapore

Moving high-rise buildings to city outskirts may seem a good way of resolving urban social problems because it disperses population and reduces traffic and other congestion. However, in my opinion this docs not enhance the characteristics of a city. Perhaps creating a real twin city on the outskirts could be an alternative. HCM City has developed into one of the most densely populated metropolises in the world, but the infrastructure is inadequate for today's population. The city is often flooded after prolonged heavy rains and traffic becomes chaotic. It is necessary for local authorities to review traffic movements and to make them into a one-way road system. Business districts can also have controlled traffic during peak hours and payments can be levied for cars entering. And it should be necessary for new high-rise buildings to provide car parking for vehicles allowed into the area. More public parking is essential to keep traffic down. HCM City can carry more high-rise buildings, but strong resettlement and acquisition laws are needed, like in other countries. It is also essential for the upgrading of existing infrastructure to make sure there is sufficient power, water, drainage, wide roads, rubbish-disposal and wastewater treatment plants.

Ha Quang Hung, Ha Noi

In my opinion, merging high-rise buildings into urban and peripheral parts of a city is a necessary trend. However, quality and design must receive more attention. If problems are left unsolved now, we will have to face many more in the future. If quality is low, people's lives will be affected and could lead to people turning against high-rises. If we don't agree on long-term planning and architectural designs early, the appearance of the cities will be affected. Creating high-rise urban areas on the outskirts of cities while leaving main agencies and universities in the centre could create transport nightmares. In my experience, we have sometimes lacked vision on master plans. For example, many universities in Ha Noi occupy so much land. It would probably be better for them to be spread across the country to cater more to the needs of rural students. If this is done, there would be more land in the centre of cities, better public transport and balanced development. We need stricter policies on high-rise inspections and more long-term vision. If we don't do this now, future generations will have severe challenges.

Tim Russell, British, HCM City

In virtually every society in which low-rise housing has been bulldozed to make way for tower blocks, communities have been increasingly atomised. This has led to a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour. The Vietnamese street/ alleyway culture, where everyone knows everybody else (and everybody else's business!), may at times be oppressive to foreign residents, but the resulting peer pressure does keep a lid on petty crime, vandalism and general misbehaviour, as was the case in pre-high-rise British cities. Contrast this with today's tower block estates in London or Manchester, many of which are virtual no-go areas. Is this really what Viet Nam wants? There is also the question of aesthetics. Sai Gon was once the legendary "Paris of the East," a city where bustling Asian street life took place against a backdrop of elegant French colonial buildings. Viet Nam spent decades fighting for freedom and independence from foreign aggressors. How sad now to see it destroying its own heritage and turning its once beautiful cities into unremarkable high-rise eyesores.

Source: Vietnam News

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