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Implementation of Nepal National Building Code

Through Automated Building Permit System

By: Naresh Giri


Background responsible agencies to issue building permits.
The current municipal building permit process
Electronic - Building Permit System (E-BPS), does not ensure the compliance of NBC. Only
the automation of a building permit system, is 3 out of 58 municipalities in Nepal have tried
a project initiated by UNDP’s Comprehensive to incorporate NBC into their building per-
Disaster Risk Management Program (CDRMP). mit process; but these attempts have been too
CDRMP aims, inter alia, to provide support in limited and lack the necessary verification to
the effective implementation of Nepal National ensure compliance.
Building Code (NBC) in the building permit
process of municipalities in Nepal. E – BPS is an These three municipalities are Kathmandu
automated system by which provisions of code and Lalitpur in the capital region and Dharan
and by-laws are integrated into the process. It which is in the far eastern region of Nepal.
also provides basic database of the total build- However, Dharan Municipality has limited
ing stock of the municipalities and analyzes enforcement of NBC compliance to the pre-
the seismic vulnerabilities of the built area. In engineered design category such as Mandatory
addition, it enhances the municipal governance Rules of Thumb (MRT).
system by facilitating the accountability and
transparency factors during service delivery. The de facto building permits process in
Kathmandu and Lalitpur is very superficial
Context and subjective even though both municipali-
ties enforce NBC compliance in theory. Few
Nepal’s National Building Code (NBC) was for- generalized checklists have been developed and
mulated in 1994. After almost 20 years of its ex- the questionnaires in checklists are overlooked
istence, the actual implementation still remains and easily manipulated. There is no effective
a critical issue. In Nepal, municipalities are the mechanism for field verification of approved
drawings. Even the concerned authorities implement the NBC and Building By-Laws
of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) (BBL) to promote safe building construction
and Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City (LSMC) practices and planned urban development in
realize that they have ineffective code compli- the national capital of Nepal - mainly Kath-
ance tools in their building permit system. mandu and Lalitpur municipalities.
Such a haphazard implementation of NBC in
Kathmandu is dampening any effort and/or General Objective
enthusiasm of the rest of the municipalities
to emulate the Capital City’s building permit The main objective of this project is to im-
system. plement NBC through an automated build-
ing plan approval and monitoring system
After many intensive discussions with munic- in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and
ipal officials, it was reported that compliance Lalitpur Sub- Metropolitan City.
enforcement is ineffective mainly because
of the high workload and limited number of Specific objectives:
trained professionals. The tracking system of
building permit processing is also inefficient. The specific objectives of the activities are in
Often permit application documents under the line of the following;
certification process are lost and manipulated.
The documents are found to be replaced with 1. Develop a customized software system for
new ones which have been manipulated to managing a building permit system based
conform to the NBC code compliance rules. on the NBC and Municipal BBL.
In order to overcome this malpractice, an ef-
fective governance system which can ensure 2. Digitize and archive the existing 15,000
transparency and accountability of the system building plans and drawings in both Kath-
in each stage of process is required. mandu Metropolitan City (KMC) as well
as Lalitpur Sub Metropolitan City (LSMC)
The database management of building stock areas.
inventory in KMC and LSMC is weak. There
is no exposure data of existing buildings 3. Train KMC and LSMC staff members
within KMC and LSMC regions. Hence, it is to implement NBC and their respective
very difficult to calculate the underlying risk Municipal BBL through E-BPS, which will
factors in more than 200,000 existing build- allow them to manage and process building
ings within these cities. In addition, vulner- permits and ensure their compliance within
ability in the Kathmandu valley is rising each the NBC framework.
day with every new building permit being
issued which is not NBC compliant. Hence, it 4. Identify and recommend suitable ICT sys-
is imperative to establish a system which can tems and logistic requirements to KMC and
not only assess the resilience of new buildings LSMC to ensure business continuity.
but also handle the archival of old building
permit folders. This will eventually assist in 5. Provide software implementation support
identifying the underlying vulnerability fac- to ensure a successful installation and a has-
tors. sle free operational environment.

All these factors necessitated to design an au- Current status


tomated system - Electronic Building Permit
System - which can systematically handle the As of now (end of September 2013) the de-
complexities of building code compliance and velopment of the E-BPS system is complet-
building permit system for both new build- ed. The system is being tested in KMC and
ings as well as old building stocks. The sole LSMC by archiving the old building permit
aim of the automated system is to effectively files. Further, LSMC has initiated testing
the system by processing the new build- requirements are more specific to building code
ing permit process simultaneously using compliance and more suitable in local context
both manual and automated process. While for simplicity and sustainability.
testing the system, the errors in the system
were rectified and upgraded. At this stage, Concept of E-BPS
the system is being widely disseminated
and suggestions from the stakeholders are E-BPS is an application software system which
processed and integrated. KMC and LSMC has been developed to assist municipalities to
have planned to fully utilize the system from improve their current building permit process.
November 2013 onwards. Meanwhile, a se- It does this by ensuring the effective compliance
ries of capacity development activities about of the NBC and BBL in urban regions, thus
the system operation is being conducted in promoting safe building practices and planned
both the cities. urban development for the entire nation.
UNDP has currently planned to implement
Methodology E-BPS at Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC)
and Lalitpur Sub Metropolitan City (LSMC). E-
It is a daunting task to design a streamlined BPS is a web-based application through which
corresponding software architecture which building permit applications are processed and
will map an arbitrary and haphazard manual current building records are maintained. This is
process and develop a simplified and ration- an effective and efficient system to monitor and
al flowchart. evaluate the current state of building construc-
tions in a municipal area. E-BPS is a distributed
An automated permit system has been system and will be implemented at both the
developed through the efforts of a group municipal offices as well as their respective
of highly qualified professionals in their ward offices. The system allows citizens to sub-
respective subject areas who have been in mit as well as track their application(s) and its
regular consultations with staff members status respectively over the internet.
in KMC, LSMC, Government officials and
other private stakeholders. E-BPS enables municipalities to manage a
building permit system by integrating the NBC
The application architects have been able and municipal BBL. It supports municipal staff
to develop crucial design data points like members to maintain a building permit da-
application processing events, building code tabase and ensure NBC and BBL compliance
compliance checking and a sense of build- for individual buildings through an intuitive
ing permit process management. They have web interface. Municipal staff members with
mapped the random manual process to a different responsibilities, such as application
systematic modular work desk based system. registration, technical data verification, com-
pliance checking, field verification, certificate
Each module and work desk has been printing, handling of legal issues, house address
suggested by the respective working com- generation, GIS data maintenance, collection of
mittee of each municipality. This has been permit fees, assessment of disaster vulnerabil-
further supported by a high level steering ity, building permit data archiving, executive
committee represented by the mayors and permit approval, etc. will be able to access the
concerned high level authorities from con- E-BPS through any of the following mediums:
cerned line ministries. LAN, Internet or Intranet.

Since E-BPS is a unique, highly customized Key features:


system, there are very few similar case stud-
ies. Literatures from similar building permit The key features of the developed system are as
systems from Bangalore, India and Nairobi, follows;
Kenya have been reviewed. However, Nepal’s
- Compliance Checking: Compliance - Archiving Building Permit Data: This
checking for BBL and NBC is one of the system enables municipalities to archive
most complex and time consuming tasks in existing building drawings/plans and
E-BPS but also one of the most important related documents. It has the capability of
features. The system verifies the data and in- storing, retrieving and managing electron-
formation provided by the building designer ic AutoCAD and/or other image/PDF file
against the system standards defined by the formats of building drawings. E-BPS also
Municipality. This feature helps Municipali- has a capability to scan and store maps
ties to speed up the permit process and also and documents with its built-in hardware
helps to identify buildings that do not com- support.
ply with its current standard. This feature
can eventually also be integrated as a - Checklists for Vulnerability Assessment:
key component of any future Disaster Risk The archived building database includes
Management system. acquisition of exposure data of each build-
ing through visual inspection. This allows
- Online Registration: An applicant can reg- for conducting qualitative vulnerability
ister and submit a building permit applica- assessment of each building structure
tion through the KMC’s web portal. Submit- following the developed guidelines of
ting a permit application online is the fastest Department of Urban Development and
and easiest method which helps to eliminate Building Construction (DUDBC). The
many manual hours the municipal staff has provision also recommends the require-
to devote in entering the same information ment of retrofitting options of the vulner-
for the permit process. The required infor- able structures as per the approved retro-
mation to apply for a building permit, i.e. fitting guidelines.
information about BBL and NBC, checklist
to apply for building permit, information - GIS/Addressing Support: E-BPS enables
about Municipality’s registered designers Municipalities to integrate building data
and trained masons, etc are available online. with a GIS based building database and
thus enables them in assigning a House
- Tracking Permit Status: The system up- Address for new buildings.
dates the permit status of each application.
Applicants may track their building permit - Revenue Generation: E- BPS has the sys-
status online by logging onto their Munici- tem of archiving of the old building stock
pality’s website through their Municipality’s database. By doing so, it can, in fact, regu-
web portal. This reduces (almost eliminates) larize many building structure within the
the number of calls or visits an applicant has framework of NBC and BBL. As a result, it
to make to their municipality office to query can impart resiliency of building stocks as
about their permit application status. well as generate the revenue for the mu-
nicipality. Further, E-BPS has checklists for
- Management of Building Permit Applica- current fees paid status. Any discrepancy
tion: The system manages building permit in the collection of land and/or property
applications which includes (but not lim- tax stalls the permit application thereby
ited to) the following documents: House leading to revenue collection.
and Land Ownership, Construction Site,
Neighboring Land Parcels (plots), Building System Process and Work Desks
Plan and Drawings, Design Data required
for BBL and NBC compliance, Citizenship E-BPS has been implemented with the
certificate, Land ownership certificate, etc. concept of Work Desks for the process-
and any other specific municipality require- ing of building permit applications and
ments. maintaining a current and archived permit
database. The description of each work
desk is as follows:
Archival Desk for managing archives of
Registration Desk for username creation, permit documents.
general data entry and data verification:
Any building permit application starts at the Executive Desk for approval of building per-
Registration Desk. It is the main customer mit & certification and standard settings.
facing section of E-BPS. It is also the last
stage of the permit process where approved Key challenges
building certificates are printed and handed
over to the customer. While conducting the activity, the team
has encountered many pertinent issues and
Technical Desk 1 for design data entry and challenges. The key challenges are as follows;
verification. Once all the required paper-
work and accompanying documents are System Sustainability:
collected, these are sent to Technical Desk
1, where data is entered into the system and A considerable number of the electronic
verified. tools and Information Technology (IT)
based systems were involved in the E-BPS
Technical Desk 2 for compliance check- system design. To achieve long term sustain-
ing: The main NBC compliance is enforced ability of the system, due diligence has been
here. The application is either approved or done in terms of making it economically
returned for further processing. feasible and technically viable.

Field Desk for maintaining field reports A sizable number of municipal staff mem-
about field verification and monitoring of bers are being trained to operate the system.
construction work. This desk handles the
actual visits to the building site.

Ward Desk for maintaining field report and
neighborhood information. Ward offices
represent satellite offices where local infor-
mation is handled. Thus we follow an over-
all trend of authority devolution.

Revenue Desk for processing permit fee and
property evaluation. Various permit appli-
cations have differing fees associated with
them which are processed here.

Legal Desk for processing and maintain-
ing litigation data. Any citizen grievances
have an avenue for correction and hearing
here.

GIS/Addressing Desk: for maintaining
house address data and integration data for
Municipal GIS.

Vulnerability Assessment Desk for main-


taining exposure data for Seismic Risk As-
sessment.
Hence, capacity development of staff and egy of KMC has to be developed with lucid
stakeholders is one of the major focus areas and coherent duties and responsibilities of
to achieve sustainability. Similarly, when each section involved. Similarly, the strategy
the system is fully functional, the service needs to be supported by legal framework
providers and consultants will be deployed such as Local Self Governance Act (1999).
in the respective municipalities at least for Further, KMC needs to facilitate the pro-
6 months to ensure business continuity and cess of endorsement of the system through
knowledge transfer. Ministry of Urban Development to ensure
its validity as the system elaborates the NBC
Routine and periodic maintenance of the and BBL. MoUD is the custodian of these
system is to be ensured by the institution. A legal provisions
dedicated maintenance fund is to be intro-
duced in the annual budget of the munici- Impact of the activity
palities.
It has been a positive sign that the munici-
pality has taken ownership and been eager
Change Management: in maintaining the E-BPS. There is wide-
spread message dissemination in related
E-BPS is an evolving piece of application sectors associated with this area. There are
software. There are multiple complex mov- few key development partners who now
ing parts with intricate dependencies. New have activities in the pipeline in follow up of
features will eventually be added to the this activity.
software to reflect evolving end user require-
ments. There also may be changes to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pro-
underlying driving force, i.e. NBC and/or posed an entire E-municipal governance
BBL. There may be multiple deployments package to KMC ensuring commitment
across the remaining municipalities in Nepal to the sustainability of the present E- BPS
with their own unique BBL. system. Along the line of present E – BPS
module, they are trying to address the entire
All these possible changes need to be ad- service delivery package of the municipality.
dressed by effectively architecting a Change
Management Strategy. Similarly, the World Bank (WB) is trying to
link E-BPS system of KMC with the pro-
Even the most modular software code has posed system to automate building permit
interdependencies and thus Change Man- process of high rise buildings conducted
agement handles new modifications, deploy- by Department of Urban Development and
ments, and future upgrades. The driving Building Construction (DUDBC). They
force behind a Change Management Strat- are also proposing to integrate the build-
egy is to ensure Business Continuity. Thus ing inventory generated by this system to
any process modification, code upgrade, or carry out urban risk assessment of entire
bug resolution should not have an adverse the Kathmandu valley. They are using open
impact on the Business Model, i.e. no cus- street mapping for conducting the inventory
tomer impact. of buildings in Kathmandu valley.

Institutional Framework: Future Initiatives

E- BPS is just a part to a whole system of Once we go-live with the E-BPS all the new
municipal governance; this is an entry point building permit process in KMC and LSMC
to the development of entire E- Munici- will be effectively code compliant. However
pal governance system in Nepal. Hence, to much remains to be done for the existing
maintain the system effectively, an ICT strat- buildings.
Within the current project scope, it has been
proposed to have the database of 15,000
existing buildings from both the municipali-
ties. Currently there are more than 200,000
buildings that need to be in the E-BPS
database for risk assessment and mitigation
purposes. Hence, the archival process of
existing building data needs to be prioritized
in the annual plan of each municipality.

Another near future initiative is to compile


the GPS coordinates of 600 existing build-
ings from both municipalities including
their exposure data and later keep them
in the GIS interface of their respective city
maps. To maintain an updated Geo- refer-
enced database of new and existing build-
ings, the municipalities must take an initia-
tive to accomplish this task through their
own efforts.

The archived database once translated into


geo – referenced format could serve as an ef-
fective input for monitoring of implementa-
tion of the Risk Sensitive Land Use Planning
(RSLUP) and corresponding by- laws. The
RSLUP documents are being developed at
the valley level by Kathmandu Valley Devel-
opment Authority (KVDA) with the support
from UNDP / CDRMP.