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Singha Durbar retrofitting possible

Walls found strong, west facade need not be brought down: Study

Kathmandu - At a time when there are efforts in favor of bringing down the ‘western façade’ of the country’s main administrative hub Singha Durbar, an independent study has concluded that the western facade need not be brought down as the load-bearing wall of this structure has little damage only.

After the debate on whether to bring down or preserve the western facade of Singha Durbar escalated, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) had contracted Infrastructure and Engineering Research & Consult (IERC) four months ago to conduct a detailed study on this. Managing Director of the Consult Pvt Ltd Dr. Rishi Ram Parajuli presented the preliminary findings of the research on the ‘western façade’ to the NRA on October 1. Parajuli had said retrofitting was possible on this as “the western facade had not suffered as much damage as discussed outside.”

“We have found that the load-bearing wall of the entire structure of the western facade of Singha Durbar hasn’t suffered much damage,” Dr. Parajuli told Kantipur, “The bricks used in the structure are found to be of better quality than the ‘super ones’ found in the market now, the earth joints have been found strong. While sampling the timbers used, they have been found to be damaged at the proportion of 32 percent.”

According to Parajuli, the second phase study on the western facade of Singha Durbar will focus on retrofitting modality, timeline and the cost. The first phase study was stipulated to be finished in one and a half months, but it had taken four months. The second phase study has been stipulated to be finished in two and a half months. Parajuli indicated that the next retrofitting process would focus on joining with mud and Surki like ancient method as far as possible, and use cement and paint only in “extremely essential condition” only.

As the debate on Singha Durbar structure continues for three years, many technical consulting groups had been giving findings that it would be ‘appropriate to bring it down.’

“The NRA will provide all forms of support and coordination to preserve and retrofit this historical structure,” said Chief Executive Officer of the NRA Sushil Gyewali. “Retrofitting modality will be determined as soon as the IERC submits its detailed report.”

The G.S. Soil & Materials Engineers had examined the soil below the surface of the facade in the course of evaluating the structure of the western facade, while separate tests were conducted for bricks, timber, and joints (mud). “Not all the beams were opened or not all the joints were tested in the examination, but the sampling was encouraging. It has been found that retrofitting is possible,” said Dr. Parajuli. He said, although retrofitting of the old structure would take more time than the construction of a new structure, efforts would be made from all sections to preserve the ‘signature icon’ of Singha Durbar.

Although retrofitting is going on on the eastern, northern and southern facades of Singha Durbar that was damaged by the earthquake, the western facade is still in the stage of study and research. The western facade, constructed during the time of Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher in European neo-classical style, consists of unique structures ranging from British halls to Stale Halls.

By Devendra Bhattarai in Kantipur - October 2, 2018

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