Experts in the built environment have again put heads together to find a lasting solution to the issue of collapse buildings in the country, and at the same time looked at loopholes that are believed to play a significant role in the prevalence of the menace and how to plug such holes.
Speaking at a paper presentation entitled: “Built Environment professionals and incessant building collapse,” during the 25th Annual Conference and General Meeting of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers held at the Rockview Hotel, Abuja, last week, the Chairman Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Kunle Awobodu, aimed at establishing a relationship between professionals in the building construction industry and building collapse.
According to him, two pertinent questions which deserve to be answered in the quest to finding an end to cases of building collapse are:
(1) To what extent are Built Environment Professionals involved in cases of building collapse?
(2) What efforts have been made by Built Environment Professionals to curb incessant collapse of buildings?
“In an attempt to provide a logical answer to the first question, buildings constructed in Nigeria must be categorised into simple and complex structures. Building owners of simple structures hardly involve built environment professionals in the production process due to ignorance and the erroneous belief that doing so saves costs.
“This is an area where quackery reigns supreme. To such building owners, registered surveyors are irrelevant, draughtsmen and detailers are preferably patronised while bricklayers and iron benders become their site engineers,” Awobodu noted.
According to Awobodu, it is the complexity of buildings that, in most cases, drives building owners to seek the services of professionals in the building construction industry, but he also opined that the attitude of not patronising professionals was also inherent in some owners of complex buildings.
“Naturally, simple buildings are more than complex buildings and collapse of simple buildings is more frequent in Nigeria but less publicized. Of course, a few professionals in the built environment have been involved directly or indirectly in cases of collapsed buildings. Unfortunately, since professional bodies are not referees of employees or contacted before engaging their members for project execution, such institutes are not given the necessary feedback on members’ performance,” he remarked.
Awobodu, also in the presentation disclosed that reactions from built environment professionals to building collapse news, in a cumulative assessment, revealed that the regular occurrence was an antithesis of professional competence, adding that such a development was doing a collective damage to the Nigerian professional image internationally, and demeaning its métier.
Awobodu further revealed that when professional recommendations on solutions to building collapse were archived in various government offices without serious intentions for implementation, brainstorming on building collapse tended to be discouraged, while also insisting that building control, all over the world, was considered a panacea for building collapse. “Building control is majorly of pre-emptive measures guided by laws and regulations,” he noted.
“However, having noticed that people hardly adhere strictly to laws and regulations in Nigeria, that planning regulations are broken at will, creating haphazard development, many observers are tempted to doubt those hopes being placed on the National Building Code. Building control laws of Lagos State is yet to make any noticeable impact after two years of its enactment,” he insisted.
“In a situation like this, one is tempted to doubt the seriousness of those whose responsibility is to implement laws,” he argued, while also adding that “problems are like plants, they have roots. Once the root causes have been identified, the appropriate solutions can then be proffered.”
Awobodu, who is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB) opined that with a view to diagnosing building collapse incidents in the country, BCPG had identified about 22 causes of the menace, which he listed as follows: Faulty design and copied designs, lack of comprehensive subsoil investigation, non-adherence to approved design, quackery, use of substandard materials, poor workmanship, non-adherence to professional advice and professional incompetence.
Others according to Awobodu include: Cognitive dissonance, greed, ignorance, pilfering, construction in crisis situation, unrealistic timelines, nocturnal concrete work/concreting in the rain, improper budget and financial control, change in use, poor drainage system/flooding, fire incident, lack of maintenance and force majeure.
He stated that the listed causes had now been developed into a template that would guide the process of implementing the possible solutions by BCPG