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LOOKING SKYWARD.

With the demand for residential real estate gradually outstripping the supply of land, the voices favouring a relaxation of the floor area ratio are getting sharper

WITH THE pace of urbanisation picking up relentlessly, city planners and developers are faced with the challenging reality of housing a rising population in a shrinking land bank. And the demand for vertical growth is gaining a sense of urgency as the two parties involved look for an answer to the growing housing needs of Delhi- NCR's swelling population.

Increasingly, a relaxation of the Floor Area Ratio ( FAR) norms is seen as the solution to the NCR's land crunch. The trend of growing vertically is an established feature in Mumbai and now it's in sharp focus with the Lodha Group announcing that it is all set to build the world's tallest residential tower ( 117 floors). In the last one year, NCR developers too have been flagging off skyscrapers that are set to change the region's skyline.

Voicing the industry's sentiments, Navin K. Raheja, CMD, Raheja Developers, says: " The only way forward for Delhi is to go vertical because land is limited.

Advanced construction technology has ensured that tall skyscrapers can be constructed in India as well." His company has just entered into a joint venture with Arabtec Construction of Burj Khalifa fame to build some of the tallest buildings in Delhi and Gurgaon.

The joint venture has three projects in the pipeline. One of them is the Raheja Revanta in Gurgaon, which has 56 storeys and a helipad, and a first- of- its- kind skybridge with an infinity pool on the 46th floor promising a bird's eye view of the Aravallis. Another is the Raheja Phoenix Project, which will be the tallest in Delhi, located at Patel Nagar. It will be a 54- storey tower with a ' sky club' and helipad.

Developers aver that the trend is here to stay. " Skyscrapers are the next big things to happen in the NCR, as was the case in Mumbai, for we cannot afford to grow horizontally," says R. K. Arora, CMD, Supertech. " It is no longer whether we can grow vertically or not, it is now a matter of how tall we can grow." Supertech was in the news lately for its 66- storey high- rise project called the ' North Eye' at Sector- 74, Noida. The project is being designed by the firm of B. E. Billimoria, who were also involved with Mukesh Ambani's high- rise home named Antilla in Mumbai. Other developers are also following suit after the relaxation of height restrictions in the NCR. Ponty Chadha's Wave Infratech is said to be planning to raise a highrise tower; Assotech has announced that it's coming up with Celeste Towers ( 121 metres high with 35 floors) in Noida; Ireo is ready to roll out Victory Valley and Tata Housing is raising Pre Manti in Gurgaon. These high- rise projects come at a high price, for most of them belong to the premium category.

Developers are enthusiastic about these projects, but property dealers say it will take some time for Delhi- NCR residents to get used to residential high- rise towers.

" In Mumbai people look at skyscrapers as a luxury and cus- tomers have become more demanding," says a property dealer selling North Eye. " These skyscrapers promise clean air, less sound pollution, a great view and above all, superior status.

But NCR resident still look at the ground and first floors as their first preferences. It will take some time for this mindset to change." Sachin Sandhir, Managing Director, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, points out that even when highrises come with their own complex challenges for brokers, they present a win- win situation for both developers and buyers.

" Most of these projects belong to the premium category, so they make financial sense for developers," says Sandhir.

" Developers can also optimise their returns by building more units on a smaller piece of land and selling them." The mood in the community clearly is in favour of high- rises. As the land below gets scarcer, the sky above offers hope.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 19, 2012
Words:698
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