The architect of the eight storey building that collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing more than 500 people, has spoken out for the first time, telling The Daily Telegraph it was planned for shops and offices – but not factories.
Four factories were installed at Rana Plaza regardless – one of which supplied Primark and Bonmarche, the British clothing retailers – and two unplanned storeys were also added, helping to precipitate its collapse.
Massood Reza, the architect who drew up the plan for Rana Plaza in 2004, said he was “asked to design a commercial shopping mall” with “three or four storeys for a market and then the upper two storeys were for offices”.
He said: “We did not design it for industrial use. At that time the garment belt was not there. There was no demand for industrial buildings. If I had known that it was to be an industrial building, as per the rules I would have taken other measures for the building.”
Other architects stressed the risks involved in placing factories inside a building designed only for shops and offices. The structure may not be strong enough to bear the weight and vibration of heavy machinery.
The government’s official investigation on Friday suggested that generators placed on the roof to power the factories – along with the vibration of sewing machines used to make garments – all combined to trigger the building’s collapse.
“Change of occupancy is a very dangerous thing,” said Mobasshar Hossain, the president of the Bangladesh Institute of Architects. “Your residence is designed for residential purposes, but suddenly you change the occupancy for factories. You can do it, but you then have to strengthen the building so it can take the load of industrial machinery, vibration and the movement of a good number of human beings.”
The original plan for Rana Plaza, seen by The Daily Telegraph, duly describes the building’s purpose as “com” for “commercial”, not industrial.
Primark has declined to say what it knew about Rana Plaza before the disaster. Bonmarche has insisted that it was unaware of any reason to doubt the building’s safety.
The Walt Disney Company has announced that it will stop placing supply contracts in Bangladesh and Pakistan because of the safety record of both countries, although this decision predated the latest disaster.
Nonetheless, as the death toll from the worst industrial disaster in Bangladeshi history reached 507 on Friday, the government sought to play the tragedy down.
“I don’t think it is really serious – it’s an accident,” said Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the finance minister, adding: “The steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all.”
Source: The Telegraph