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The lack of skyscrapers in India : A political game.

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

When you visit any bustling Asian city, you'll notice that many of them have something in common.

They. construct. massive. structures.

Massive skyscrapers tower over city centers, owing largely to economic growth and increased demand for space in congested areas.

India comes next. The nation has the second-highest GDP on the continent, behind China, and is home to some of the world's most populous cities. But these figures are not really reflected in its buildings. There are some skyscrapers there, but they are mostly in Mumbai and are, on average, smaller than those in nearby Asian cities. This city is situated on a peninsula where land is both expensive and in short supply. Developers are typically forced to build upward due to such restrictions; consider New York or Hong Kong. Mumbai is still far behind the curve when it comes to skyscrapers. So why does India build so lowly if its population and wealth are so high? Well, it all has to do with a little-known rule that prevents the nation from growing significantly and controlling density.

Image courtesy by - The B1M

This is how India's skyline is being stunted by politics, infrastructure, and money. Skyscrapers often rise in areas where there is a high demand for space because too many of us, they represent things like wealth, power, and growth. Nearly 1,100 skyscrapers over 200 meters tall have been built in China. South Korea comes in second with 86 points, followed by Malaysia with 61 and Indonesia with 48. India only has 24, and there aren't many under construction that are even close to 300 meters. Given its 1.4 billion population and overall wealth, that difference is extremely unusual. Instead, the nation favors building outside its borders, and historically, there are a few reasons for that, including infrastructure. Due to its size and high demand for electricity during the hotter months, India frequently experiences power outages. Many of its cities also frequently struggle to access clean water. Skyscrapers now depend on the availability of power and water. Because they consume more energy than low-rise structures, high-rises require a robust supporting infrastructure. That explains a portion of it, but the real reason for the nation's limited skyline is a government-mandated building code that has been in effect for many years.

The floor space index or floor area ratio are two names for it.

thrillingly shortened to FSI.

The FSI measures how much floor space can be built overall in relation to the amount of land that floor space is being built on. It establishes the overall area that may be constructed across all floors.

Image courtesy by - Bloomberg

A little bit of math was used by civil engineer Shirish Patel to explain what this means. "In other words, if your plot is one hectare in size and your floor space index (FSI) is one, let's say you can build one hectare of floor space. If your footprint is halfway there, you can build ground in one upper. The first floor is half an acre, and the ground floor is half a hectare. When the efforts are multiplied, that amounts to one hectare, which is a huge area."

The volume and floor space of a building is limited by the FSI number, which can be as low as 0. Urban planners advise using this tool in a way that doesn't lead to a shortage of land. In places where land is expensive or scarce, it can help to lower the cost of land per unit.

These building codes for height restrictions are currently in place in a number of cities, but India's are stricter than most other nations with comparable profiles.

Check out Mumbai. Mumbai implemented a 1.3 FSI in 1991 in an effort to restrict new construction and keep out migrants.

Just to give you an idea of how low that figure is in New York, Manhattan's average FSI is 15. As high as or even higher are the Asian cities that are close to India. Tokyo's FSI is 20, Singapore's is startlingly high at 25, and Hong Kong's is up to 12.

Mumbai's geographical location on an island restricts horizontal growth, but the low FSI restricts it even more.

Image courtesy by - Shaunak Modi

Mumbai did not loosen restrictions until 2022. but just a little. Now, FSI varies from 2.5 to 5, depending on the precise location.

There are comparable or even lower numbers in other Indian cities.

The nation justifies these limitations with "health and safety considerations." Additionally, it represents an effort to control the rate of development and lower the number of inhabitants in a given area.

But according to urban planners, those problems aren't really resolved by a stricter FSI.

"The biggest misconception about density planning is higher FSI equals higher population density, which is not true."

"There is no limit to how many people can live in very tall buildings with one nice floor and one flat apartment per floor. Additionally, there will be a rising tide of slums that are entirely submerged. But there is a huge amount of population density."

The results of these ideas have a significant impact on the nation, and this impact extends well beyond the absence of some impressive skyscrapers.

The cost of living is the main effect. The limited floor space becomes extremely expensive if you don't add any space where people want to live.

Image courtesy by - The B1M

People have been moving to the urban centers of cities like Mumbai and Bangalore because there are so many job opportunities there. However, developers can't keep up with higher populations and lower FSIs. "People want to live in cities, but if you don't accommodate them in a smaller footprint closer to the city center. spread out your work in urban areas. As a result, spread out horizontally. You will need to build more exiting roads, which will increase emissions and draw in more visitors.

According to urban planners, boosting FSI would be a good first step in reducing overcrowding and housing costs.

But it would also need to be accompanied by spending on roads, public transportation, and other essential infrastructure systems. The general public might not be on board with the idea just yet, despite the fact that loosened FSI restrictions and more skyscrapers could help address some of India's urban challenges. "People do associate skyscrapers and density with negative things. Due to the area's poor infrastructure and lack of green spaces, the one or two high-density buildings that are constructed there." The recent change in Mumbai's FSI, despite being a small increase, may portend a taller future for the city's skyline and better-managed population density. Just in the last few years, development has accelerated significantly.

Thirty-one skyscrapers, including 27 in Mumbai, with a combined height of about 200 meters and primarily housing, are anticipated to be finished in India in 2022.

Image courtesy by - iStockphoto

"I believe that if we have these discussions in the future and adopt higher density, taller living, it will improve quality of life, particularly in cities like Mumbai. As more cities grow, technology will become more affordable. Costs for construction would also match." India's population growth, particularly in its major cities, isn't expected to slow down anytime soon, and as space becomes more scarce, real estate costs will rise. But if the nation continues to expand upward and makes more infrastructure investments, its urban housing crisis might start to ease, and Mumbai might get a brand-new skyline.


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