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Open Space Bonus for Bengaluru City

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Open Space BonusWhen there is little "free" land available in Bangalore urban and peripheral areas, how do you encourage creation of public space? Large parks and lung spaces is one thing, 'small' public spaces another. Think a little extra width for pedestrians. Think extra bus bays on private spaces. May be some lawn space and plazas along the high density roads to reduce the action on the shores of the "corridors".


Looking around at 40-50 year planning history of large and dense cities like London and New York, I found something interesting - a bonus for private builders to create small open spaces. The "plaza bonus" was part of the zoning laws passed in New York in 1961. It allowed developers to build taller structures in exchange for creating and maintaining plazas, atriums, passageways, and other spaces, all open to the public. Simply speaking, set aside some land in your plot as public space, and get higher FAR as "bonus":

"The Plaza Bonus is an incentive for developers to provide the public with accessible open areas around their buildings. such plazas presumably increase pedestrian space in densely built-up areas and sun and sky in areas with tall buildings. In compensation for this public benefit, developers receive a bonus of additional rentable floor area ... This bonus proved embarassingly successful. Between 1961 and 1973 1.1 mill sqft of new open space was created ... in lower manhattan, with its narrow streets and busy sidewalks, the plaza bonus produced miraculous results ..."

The Bangalore Masterplan land use regulations provide you tables that let you know the ways to maximize on construction inside your plot. Ground coverage (footprint of building as percentage of land plot area) and setback from road are some aspects there. What if there was an open space bonus to minimize your ground coverage? Would we benefit with such an initiative on the lines of New York City's plaza bonus?

-Pranav aka silkboard

PS: Let me take the time to summarize Land Use Zonal Regulations in Bengaluru Masterplan. They go like this. They read the city's charecteristics to identify types of "Areas" ( 5 types - Old urban, Urban Redevelopment, Residential, Industrial/activity, Green). Then, each of these 5 "Areas" have different "zones" under them, and norms have been listed for each zone depending on the type of use the "zone" is being or expected to be put to. For Example Urban Redevelopment area has very specific zones as MG Road, CBD, as well as all radial corridors clubbed under a zone called "mutation corridors".

Anyway. The point is about the way the norms have been prescribed for these zones. Lets take the MG Road zone.Master plan strategies for this zone are:

  • Encourage continuous buildings in the defined zone for a street edge and consistent skyline.
  • Promote high quality developments on larger parcels through enhanced development rights and permission for land re-constitution.
  • Use of planning/management techniques and incentives for encouraging street related activity.

How would you acheive the point #3 above? Masterplan has simple indicative tables, which will suggest Grond coverage (footprint of building on the plot), setback (distance of building from from the road) and FAR (Floor Area Ratio - builtup area to plot size ratio) depending on:

  • plot size
  • height of the building
  • type of development (commercial or residential)

If you are building on 1000 sq meter plot, and building height is 15 meters, roughly speaking:

  • You can build 2500 sq meters
  • Max ground coverage can be 60%
  • Building must be 3 meters away from the road

Thanks for reading.


  1. The quote and photo from "The American City: What Works, What Doesn't" By Alexander Garvin (link)
  2. Info on Land use regulation zones sourced from Masterplan LUZR pdf on BDA website


FSI / FAR linked to transportation infrastructure

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Additional FAR / FSI is only possible when the crucial parameter of transportation is taken care off. Already because Bengaluru had higher FSI than Mumbai and other cities, an accelerated growth took place without much change to urban transportation infrastructure.

In the routes of Namma Metro, i read that FSI sanctioned has already been raised to 4. The reason given by planners was to minimise urbanisation. This was the prevalent logic before liberalisation, which has only now been challenged and looked in a different way by the bureaucratic babudom in charge of urban planning.

What you suggest above is indeed possible in Bengaluru as well - provided we have the same urban transport infrastructure that NYC has. 

Sane building by-laws

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 In order to cities to grow, there has to be sane building by-laws. For example, if i leave enough set back on all sides, i should be compensated in going vertical so that i get that extra space i need. 

Urban family sizes are reducing. The average urban family size is about 4 compared to 5 which is the national average. So an average family would atleast require 3 bedrooms - 2 for kids and 1 master bedroom and hall kitchen etc. So the average requirement tends to be about 2000 sq ft of carpet area.

Growing vertically means getting more value out of urban land. This in turn reduces pressure on forests and other agricultural land.

Hyderabad adopted a more transparent and forward looking building by-law and building code. Hopefully, once Akrama-Sakrama is over and BBMP council in place, we could look towards overhauling the building by-laws in Bengaluru.

Organisations such as BAI (Builders Association of India), CREDAI, KOAPA, CII and BCIC could participate. We should have consumer orgainsations as well. Maybe a BMLTA type summit devoted to construction / building issues can be proposed.

FSI / FAR from Hospitality point of view

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This article discusses FSI / FAR from Hospitality point of view: 

Even Lahore has better FSI than Bengaluru

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This really takes the cake. The Pakistani city of Lahore has better FSI than Bengaluru! Maybe this will provide a "secular" example for our babudom planners to increase FSI! ;-) 
silkboard's picture

FAR vs density

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Cadambi - any more details on why you think Hyderabad's bylaw and building code is more forward looking?

FAR alone may not be the best indicator of density. I am not sure if Bangalore follows any norms on sq ft space per employee for office buildings, or number of residents per bedroom or per sqft of a flat or house. Moreover, FAR, ground coverage (building's footprint) and setback norms together determine the density of an urban area.

The FAR along Metro corridor was raised to 4 (this is my theory) to encourage more business and residences closer to Metro stations. This has been done to ensure revenues for Metro, because, not everyine is banking on BBMP building wonderful footpaths and BMTC running fantastic local services to draw people several kilometers away to Metro stations.

Anyway. The recent ABIDe transportation plan perhaps has the beginnings of "plaza bonus" like thing - it talks of getting land from private owners (in return for higher FAR of course) for things like bus bays comment guidelines

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