Kamala Mills fire: Soon, a licence from BMC body a must for interior designers
After role of designers emerges in Siddhi Sai collapse and Kamala Mills fire, BMC wants to amend Municipal Corporation Act; make it a registered profession
The rooftop of Trade House building in Kamala Mills, Lower Parel, ablaze on December 28. Pic/Sameer Markande
The next time you plan to hire an interior designer to jazz up your home, make sure his credentials are top on your priority, as professionals in the business might no longer be allowed to practice without a licence from a BMC regulatory body. The development comes close on the heels of a recent probe by the BMC into the Kamala Mills tragedy that also held the architect and interior designers of 1 Above and Mojo's Bistro responsible for the blaze that killed 14.
BMC staffers demolish illegal construction at Kode resto-bar. Pic/Shadab Khan
According to the probe, which was led by BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta, the interior design of the restobars had possibly converted the premises into firetraps. Mehta in his report had said that a law should be formulated to regulate and make the interior decorators accountable for their actions too, a civic source said. "Today, the interior decorator is answerable only to the employer. The law has to now make the interior decorator liable for damages that may occur due to negligence and oversight in not recommending safe material," the report stated.
While the Government of India had constituted the Council of Architecture (COA) under the provisions of the Architects Act, 1972, to ensure that architects in the country comply with safe standards of practice, there is currently, no such regulatory body for interior designers. "Anyone with good understanding of colours and home décor could become an interior designer," a civic official said. "Having a law in place, will help citizens make wiser choices," said architect Chandrashekhar Prabhu.
Sameep Padora, architect behind Indigo Deli interiors
The BMC will now, be recommending the state government to issue a common licence so that only qualified people are allowed to operate. This process is likely to include an amendment in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, which will enable the regulatory authority to make interior designing a registered profession. Those hiring unlicensed designers could also face an investigation.
Pratap Jadhav, national president of the IIID
A senior civic official, who did not wish to be named, said, "Just like doctors have the Medical Council of India, and architects are registered with the Council of Architecture, we want interior designers to operate with registered licenses."
The registration process will include verifying the qualification of the interior decorators. A code of ethics will also be drafted, which if not followed, would make interior designers accountable for irregularities. Civic chief Mehta confirmed the development, but refused to divulge details. "We will examine all aspects to regulate this profession," he said.
Need of the hour
Shirish Sukhatme of Practicing Engineers, Architects and Town Planners Association, said there was a pressing need to give qualified interior designers an identity. "Currently, there are many contractors, with zero qualification, who are calling themselves interior decorators," he said.
Echoing his sentiments, Sameep Padora, architect who has designed interiors for Indigo Deli in Palladium and The Clearing House, Ballard Estate, said the BMC's interest in bringing a certification would "help weed out people, who do not have adequate training or expertise, even if they are graduates". "There have been cases of interior designers making significant changes to a space, such as breaking down columns. This certification process will help set some standards in practice," he said. The Ghatkopar building collapse in August last year, which killed 17, is a case in point, where beams and columns had been removed on the advise of a contractor.
Currently, interior designers in the country have a certification from the Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), an apex body that was founded and registered as a society in 1972 to establish good professional and trade practices and ethics, to enhance the image of the profession. "It will be useful if the civic body uses this existing certificate as a standard, rather than introduce a new one. The IIID certificate can be given governmental or quasi-governmental recognition," said Padora.
Pratap Jadhav, national president of the IIID, admitted that interior design, across the world, is seen as a hobby course "with curriculums extending to anywhere between one or six months". "But there's so much science and technology involved that plays with the life of the end user. We see it as a three plus one year full-time curriculum," said Jadhav, adding that they wouldn't mind approaching the BMC and suggesting they make IIID as a standardisation body.
Kamala Mills Fire: Shocking scenes from the fire that killed many