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EghtesadOnline: There are 100 buildings in Tehran with conditions similar to Plasco – a high-rise commercial tower in Tehran that burned down in 2017, half of which were shut down after the incident but the rest are still being used, the head of Construction Engineering Organization said.

Ahmad Khorram also told IRIB News, “One thousand buildings, including 30-40 residential and commercial units and 30,000 to 40,000 residential and commercial units, are at high risk of catching fire. 

The 17-storey Plasco commercial tower on Jomhouri Street, Iran’s oldest high-rise and an iconic structure in downtown Tehran, built in 1962, caught fire on Jan. 19, 2017, and was destroyed completely. In the incident, sparked by an electrical short circuit, 16 firefighters and four civilians lost their lives, while some 70 people suffered injuries.

“A disaster more terrifying than fire is currently threatening the capital city, i.e., earthquake. Sub-surface layers of the city, to the south of Enqelab Street [downtown Tehran], have become pliable as the groundwater level is high there. In fact, buildings are floating on a layer of sewage. In the event of a six-magnitude earthquake, these layers will collide and buildings will collapse,” he said. 

“In the year ending March 2004, Japan International Cooperation Agency conducted a study in Tehran and reached the conclusion that hundreds of thousands of residential units will be ruined and millions of people will be killed if a six-magnitude earthquake were to strike Tehran.”

Khorram noted that people need to know that it is better to spend 8% of the total cost of construction on seismic strengthening of the building instead of seeing an earthquake ruining their properties.

Noting that more than 50% of public buildings are also highly vulnerable and need to become fire-resistant, the official said, “The lifespan of buildings in Iran was an average of 30 years in the 1970s; now it has reduced to 23-24 years, whereas in Europe and America their buildings’ lifespan was 30 years and now exceeds 120 years. There’s a long path ahead of us to improve the lifespan of buildings to 50 years. That won’t be possible by using traditional methods; less than 5% of constructions in Iran follow industrial techniques and methods.”

Rouzbeh Zahiri Hashemi, managing director of Maskan Investment Group, the parent company of Bank Maskan, says real-estate development by individuals, who don’t have the knowledge and expertise needed in the field, has reduced the industry to jerry-building.

“Iran’s construction sector is facing the inflow of inefficient and unprofessional investors for years now. The absence of a single rule regarding people who are both investors and builders has led to the decline in construction quality, age and rapid deterioration of residential prosperities,” he was quoted as saying by Hibna. 

Asked why the average lifespan of residential buildings in Iran are much shorter than the global average, he said, “That is chiefly to blame on the job being done by unprofessional hands rather than by efficient, certified builders.”

“Is it possible for ordinary people to manufacture vehicles? Can they secure permits easily? Certainly not! But what happens when the same people decide to build a house? No legal hurdles would face them. The fact is that there isn’t a unified and integrated system in place to supervise housing construction like the one in place for manufacturing cars. 

Underlining the importance of separating investment sector from the construction sector in terms of housing, the official said, “The point is those who carry out construction work are themselves investors. Those who don’t have expertise are building homes across the country. They don’t have the perspective of a career engineer. They’re jerry builders. The quality of building is dictated by factories that make construction materials to the time the plan is being executed by professionals. The lack of safety and technical standards and principles in all phases of construction leads to the premature deterioration of buildings, i.e., before the age of 50.”


Tehran Buildings commercial tower