High-rise living in Colombo:
Still under construction, Colombo's Lotus Tower at D.R. Wijewardena
Mawatha, currently measuring over 292 meters, is already the most
visible landmark in the capital. When completed in October 2017, it will
stand as the tallest structure in the whole of South Asia at 350 meters.
The Lotus Tower however has competition. According to the Council on
Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), a global body in the field of
tall buildings and sustainable urban design, the tallest proposed
building in Colombo is the Al-Aman World Capital Centre. This business
and financial hub would rise to a staggering height of 625 meters and
111 storeys above ground level.
"That's the problem with all these skyscrapers that are mushrooming
in the capital. We don't know which one would come up next or in what
form. It begs the question, 'do we have a plan?'" asked Dr. Janaka
Wijesundara, Director at the Program of Urban Design, Department of
Architecture, University of Moratuwa.
According to the database maintained by the CTBUH, there are only two
buildings over 150m in Colombo which is the World Trade Centre Towers.
There are four under construction including Altitude at 383 meters,
Altair at 240 meters, the mixed development ITC One Colombo 1 at 225 and
Clear point Residencies at 186 meters.
The two proposed buildings which would soar even further than
Altitude are the Al-Aman World Capital Centre and Krrish Square Tower
"Based on a comparative study we did of tall buildings in cities
around the world, we found that there were stringent criteria that were
used for the approval and construction of high rise housing and mixed
developments, which we felt should be incorporated here," said Dr.
This process of re-development which is changing the Colombo skyline
needs to be well studied," Dr. Rangajeewa Rathnayake Head, Department of
Town and Country Planning and Senior Lecturer at the University of
Moratuwa said. He referred to the City of Colombo Development Amendment
of 2008 which is meant to promoting and regulating the integrated
planning and physical development in Colombo as requiring urgent
upgrades. "Our zoning regulations are generic. We need cluster specific
guidelines and one that suits this city."
Dr. Rathnayake explained that when there are too many towering high
rise buildings in a given location, the natural air circulation is
disturbed which could lead to higher density which will in turn lead to
an 'urban heat island'
The 'Heat Island' effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a city is
significantly warmer than rural surrounding areas due to human
activities. "Development alters the landscape and increases energy use.
As a result there is more radiation trapped in roads and buildings and
more waste is produced since people consume more energy. The only way to
combat this is to have roofs that are reflective or covered in greenery,
which is how it's done in countries like Singapore but not here," he
Waste generation and parking spaces
Another issue which arises from an increase in high rise projects is
waste management both trash and sewage becoming a problem as densities
increase. The city's sewage pipelines were not designed to cope with the
huge volume of waste from a 70 story tower, garbage collection must also
be standardized in order to cope with vertical townships.
Parking and traffic are additional factors - many of Colombo's
residential projects appear to lack parking facilities, and vehicles are
parked on already narrow roads increasing congestion.
Even where parking is adequate road access is an issue with the flow
of vehicles into and out of large blocks disrupting traffic flow on main
The Urban Development Authority, however states that stringent
procedures and process are followed particularly with regard to high
rise buildings. "The reason why the high rise structures appear as if it
is happening in a haphazard manner is simply because they are all
desperately trying to stick to a plan on where they can and cannot
build," said Mahinda Withanachchi, Director of Projects at the UDA. "We
follow the City of Colombo Development Amendment Act 2008 which clearly
states the many areas where we cannot allow high rise buildings to come
He added that the guidelines were clear and conformity to it was
compulsory. "When a developer comes to us for approval, it is not merely
the UDA which decides but a Colombo Planning Committee which comprises
experts and others from across the board."
As part of this committee he added there were members from the Road
Development Authority, the UDA, Board of Investment, Coast Conservation
and other experts who were well acquainted with planning and development
of high risers. "Once the construction is complete, the developer has to
revert to this committee to obtain a Certificate of Conformity, which we
are very particular about," said Withanachchi.
He added that the prior to granting the Certificate of Conformity,
officers from the UDA and other institutions would visit the site for an
inspection and to assess if the developer had kept to the initial plan
"There are so many condominiums which had violated this rule and we
took them to courts demanding that the building be demolished," he said.
"We intend to take many more in the coming months as we take stock of
the developers who are deviating from the original plans."
He added that there were two classifications, minor and major
"If the matter is a minor deviation, we might only fine the
developer, but if it is a major deviation, we will take them to courts.
At the same time, we will not offer them the certificate which means
that the construction is illegal."
He added that there are many residents in Colombo who had paid hefty
sums for apartments and are now without proper deeds because the UDA had
not granted the certificate since the developer had deviated from the
[How to set up a condominium in Colombo]
* Preliminary approval from the Urban Development Authority
* Local Authority approval of plan and supporting documents
* A Certificate of Conformity can be obtained after construction
based on the approved plan
* Collection of documents from Condominium Management
* Submission for obtaining one of the three CMA certificates
* After this process the Condominium Management Authority
* After submission of necessary documents to CMA, developer
has to coordinate with CMA officials
* There will be a field inspection by engineers, technical officers.
* The construction will be cross checked with the declaration and
* The documents are then handed over to the committee coordinators
who will pass it on to the Colombo Planning Committee.
This will be followed by a check by UDA officials and site engineers
* There will be a final committee approval
* Issuance of CMA certificate
* Registration of Condominium Deed of Declaration
Source: Condominium Management Authority/UDA
[Warning notice ]
To buyers of Condominium properties
The Condominium Management Authority has observed that certain
unscrupulous individuals and organizations who claim to be condominium
developers seek a cash despoit from public to reserve an apartment in
the Condominium that they proposed to develop.
The general public is advised to request the developer to furnish the
following information and data to prospective buyers before
any payment is made.
Copy of Deeds
Ownership certificate issued by the local authority
Copy of the street line certificate issued by the local authority
Preliminary clearance letter issued by the CMA
Building plan approval and development permit issued by the UDA or
Other areas potential buyers need to investigate:
Storm water drainage system - weather the Central Environment
Authority approval available or obtained.
Arrangement made by the developer for water, electricity, sewersystem,
generators and back up system for water and electricity.
Parking facilities for the Condominium parcels
Period of construction
Anticipated date of issuing deeds
For inquires call the CMA on 0112447429 or 0112247432