Bengaluru Design Jam on BBMP Bye-laws – July 2024

July 08, 2024 Vaidya R

A city is defined by how people live, and the kind of buildings in the city – houses as well as other buildings like schools, hospitals etc – play a significant role in that. Building bye-laws defined by the urban local bodies exist mainly to regulate how different structures – residences, apartments, commercial buildings, schools, hospitals etc – are built. They ensure that the buildings serve their purpose effectively while also being accessible and not affecting the functioning of other buildings or services in their neighbourhoods. The bye-laws are also necessary to protect buildings against noise, fire, earthquakes and structural failures.

BBMP Construction Bye-laws

The BBMP bye-laws for Bengaluru Urban were last defined in 2003, with zoning related guidelines added in 2015 as part of the Revised Master Plan. Given how old these laws are, and how much the city has grown in the meantime, one wonders how antiquated these laws are, and if they are even relevant to the city anymore.

The Bengaluru Design Jam for BBMP Bye-laws was held in this context to look at the bye-laws and how they affect and shape the city, both by how they are defined and flouted. The event was held on the 6th July 2024 at a private location on Palace Road, Vasanthanagar in Bengaluru. Biome Environmental Solutions and MOD Foundation were the partners for the event, and experts from these organisations guided the participants on their problem statements and outputs.

In a day-long event 22 participants from varied backgrounds, including architects, academicians, urban planners, software developers and other active citizens joined hands to analyse the bye-laws and looked at different aspects of it. The participants were split into four teams who dove deep into the bye-laws and land-use patterns of the city to identify systemic issues with the city planning and suggest solutions for the same.

Problem Statements

The four teams tried to address the following questions:

  1. Measuring the inclusivity of BBMP/BDA Byelaws for sustainable future development, with Bellandur (Ecospace SEZ vs Surrounding areas) as use case.
  2. Access to civic amenities significantly impacts the livability and accessibility of urban commons for citizens. What does a critical evaluation of how the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Building Bye-Laws align with these needs tell us?
  3. Can we re-look at dwelling conditions, and mental and physical health in the city through bye-laws? Can bye-laws better inform open space index -need for recreation and community space – in the aspect of built form?
  4. How are regulations supporting the city growth and how can it adapt to a growing city? And if they are really required.


Inclusivity of Bye-laws for sustainable future development

The first team, with Abhay, Daksh, Nidhi, Nitish, Sharad and Vivek looked at inclusivity of the bye-laws with a focus on the SEZs in Bellandur and if they are fostering sustainable development or not.

Sharad of Team 1 presenting his team’s output

What they found was that such SEZs had led to very inequitable development favouring only some sections of the society. They had led to lesser affordable housing, and cutting off of large swathes of land to serve isolated conclaves of the upper middle class. This had led to ghettoisation of existing areas and villages due to such isolated, insular development strategies. The general public ended up with lesser access to green buffer spaces and public transportation networks.

Access to lower-income areas has been cut-off due to poor land-use regulations and enforcement

They highlighted the need for integrating open data into the planning process for informed decision-making that considers the needs of all communities. They also noted the importance of actively involving citizens in shaping bye-law reforms through workshops, discussions, and public hearings so that every section of the society gets heard.

A Civic Amenity Reality Check for Select Wards in Bengaluru

Adarsh, Devika, Kaushik, Lakshmi and Sujith looked at the availability of civic amenities, more specifically green areas and hospitals in select wards of the city and how uniform is their accessiblity.

Lakshmi of Team 2 presenting her team’s output

They noted that access to civic amenities significantly impacts the livability and accessibility of urban commons for citizens. For those reasons, they wanted to critically evaluate the BBMP building bye-laws to see how they align with these needs. For the purpose of this datajam and in the interest of time, they analysed three wards – Yelahanka, HSR Layout and Garebhavipalya.

According to the URDPFI (Urban and Regional Development Plan Formulation and Implementation), of the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt of India, 10-12 sq. m of open space should be available to each person. Also, as per the BBMP bye-laws, 10% of the land in an area/layout shall be reserved for parks and open spaces. A minimum of 5% should be given for civic amenities by the developers.

Based on this, looking at park areas, they found that while the requirement for park area is 6.03 ha in HSR Layout ward, 12.54 ha was the actual park area. While this is more than the requirement they noted that the distribution of these parks is very unequal with the older villages having no parks in their vicinity. Similar trends were noticed in Yelahanka ward.

While there are many parks in Yelahanka ward, they are not evenly spread out and areas outside the new town don’t have parks in their vicinity.

However, Garebhavipalya ward painted a completely different picture where, while the requirement is for 6.56 Ha of park area, there were absolutely no parks in the entire ward, highlighting the unequal development of wards and areas in the City.

A relook at dwelling conditions, and mental and physical health in the city through bye laws

The third team, with Druid, Namoshi, Nemo, Yashaswini and Umang looked at how the bye-laws affect physical and mental health in the city, if they actively promote it or hinder it.

Yashaswini of Team 3 presenting her team’s output.

They noted that the bye-laws dictate technicalities on construction with no connect to ground realities. Safety, walkability, land-use and quality of life do not seem to be addressed by the bye-laws.

Looking at hospitals and their regulations, they found that the bye-laws contradicted each other at multiple locations, for e.g., the amount of parking space allowed in a hospital building. They also found that strangely the bye-laws specified that “Mental Treatment Hospitals” are not allowed in residential zones, harking back to a past where they were considered “mental hospitals” and “asylums”.

Bye-laws for hospital buildings are archaic and contradictory.

How are regulations supporting the city growth and how can it adapt to a growing city?

Amogh, Anshu, Aurobindo, Dhruvin, Shanthala and Sudeep of the fourth team looked at how the bye-laws are helping the city grow, if they are able to adapt to a fast-growing city, and most importantly, if these bye-laws are really required and are serving their purpose.

Shanthala of Team 4 presenting her team’s output

For the purpose of their analysis they considered parameters like plot size, land use, setback, floor-area ratio, building height and coverage. They correlated these parameters with different typology or site sizes and usage. The typology they considered were site sizes of 20X30, 30X40 and 40X60, and commercial sites. They chose specific streets in Vijayanagar locality with different site sizes and land usage, and Google Street View to make their observations.

They observed that residential plots are being used for commercial purposes especially when the plot sizes are large. Violation of setbacks is predominant with small plot sizes (20X30), and violation of built-up areas is also seen more in smaller plot-sizes. In larger plot-sizes also newer buildings are seen violating built-up areas.

Violation of bye-laws like setbacks, height, floor-area ratio are rampant in smaller plots.

Based on this, they recommended that the city needs micro-level planning with local area plans. Dynamically adjusting the regulations in response to economics and addressing violations through relevant support regulations would regulate and support a positive city growth.


The teams looked at the issues plaguing the city from the lens of the building bye-laws and how they are contributing to it – either through the way they are designed or the way they are flouted.

They found that land-use regulations need to better enable equitable access to civic amenities in the form of green spaces and healthcare. The existing green spaces are also spread out, and not interlinked like in other cities, which can foster better biodiversity and quality of these spaces.

While the land-use regulations seem clear, they haven’t prevented large SEZs and luxury housing from cutting off access to amenities for lower-income sections of the city. The regulations need to be more equitable and need stronger enforcement on the ground.

When it comes to housing, different plot-sizes and land-use need different regulations in terms of setback, built-up area, number of floors and road width, which the bye-laws are not able to offer. There is a need for micro-level planning where bye-laws and regulations are hyper-local varying as per the need of the area or even the street.

Lastly, when it comes to specific usage like healthcare facilities the bye-laws are not only contradictory but antiquated needing urgent updating to current requirements and knowledge. Aspects of the city like walkability are not considered in the bye-laws or even the land-use plans.

Chitra V, of Biome Environmental Solutions noted that “events like this help understand the making of a city, its drawbacks and gaps, and start the work towards making the city a better place for all.”

According to Amritha Ganapathy, of Mod Foundation, “an event like this will enable people from varying backgrounds to reflect on their spatial experience in the city and connect it to the existence or lack of bye-laws that govern them. Through this we can get the general society more interested and aware of the nature and consequences of our built environment on city life.”

For the participants, who chose to spend a Saturday deliberating on city bye-laws it was an experience of interaction with people of different backgrounds, and understanding the city through diverse lenses. As Anshu Darbari, a participant put it, “it has been interesting to contribute to the city as citizens through this design jam. The collaboration and dialog between various professionals like designers, planners, engineers has given a plethora of lenses to look at the city of Bengaluru and make a difference in our capacities.”

Meera K, Managing Trustee at Oorvani Foundation, summed up the event from the lens of as “a very valuable exercise to understand what affects livability in Bengaluru’s homes and neighbourhoods and how things can improve”.