Where do we go from here?

Posted: September 24, 2014 by Chynnie in Building Collapse
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Few days ago i wrote a post on building collapse following the recent case of the collapsed building in the Synagogue church of all nation, and i asked a question; Who is to blame? According to the news now, casualties have risen to about 90 and the South African government claims that the casualties are more than a 100 (excluding the injured). This is sad, really sad, and now i beg to ask – Where do we go from here? Are we going to continue having cases like this? What do we all need to do? When i say we i mean all the professionals in the building industry, the government, the client and you who know nothing about the building industry. Yes you, because this concerns us all. No need for blames now, the deed is been done, people have died……Where do we go from here?

Before i go further, lets look at some reasons why buildings fail. Several cases of structural collapse of buildings are reported in Nigeria, where a lot of construction works were going on. Some of the reported cases had to do with buildings that have lived beyond their life spans, others were being renovated (like the case in this article), whereas other buildings were already occupied and suddenly the collapse occurs. The inability of the engineer to carry out proper site investigations, inability to calculate design loads accurately, inability to prevent the use of substandard building materials, inability of the engineers/planning authority to have good design layout and inability of the engineers to understand structural analysis and design principles lead to structural failures. The possible causes of building collapse in Nigeria are:

  • the absence of soil test report;
  • structural designs and details handled by quacks;
  • absence of co-ordination between the professional bodies and the local town planning authority;
  • lack of adherence to specifications by the unqualified and unskilled personnel;
  • poor and bad construction practices;
  • the use of substandard building materials;
  • lack of proper supervision by professionals;
  • inadequate enforcement of the existing enabling building regulations;
  • illegal conversion of buildings which often lead to structural deficiencies;
  • flagrant disobedience of town planning regulations by developers/landlords;
  • the compromising attitude of some workers of the town planning authority;
  • lack of sanctions against erring professionals and landlords;
  • Excessive Vibration and Weight.

Report of soil test of any site is very useful to the architect and the structural engineer. This will enable them to specify what type of foundation is to be used. And also they will know what precaution to take in order to avoid collapse of the structure because of settlement and other foundation problems. In some cases, buildings that are above the ground floor level do not have structural designs and details, and often times lead to failure of the structure. On the whole, the professional bodies such as Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the NIOB and the Planning Authorities, who represent the government share in the blame (as stated in the possible causes of building collapse above) that cause collapse of buildings in Nigeria.

But we are not here to lay blames. Where do we go from here? What are the measures that must be followed to prevent this from happening in the nearest future. What do we do to minimize the incessant building failure/collapse in the country.

  1. Stringent penalties should be applied for those responsible for collapse of buildings, particularly when loss of lives is involved, such as jail or death sentences. This will serve as a deterrent to the carefree developers in the country.
  2. Town Planning Authorities should be adequately staffed and equipped with experienced professionals in the construction industry. For effective monitoring of projects during and after construction.
  3. Continuing professional development should be emphasised by both the professional bodies and the government on modern trends in the building industry. To keep members of the building industry abreast with new trends in construction.
  4. Government should provide an enabling law for the training, and effective control of artisans and craftsmen in the building industry.
  5. Government should screen those getting involved in housing projects. For any structure more than a bungalow, a structural engineer must be involved.
  6. Construction work should only be carried out by registered contractors and supervised by registered architects, engineers and builders rather than engaging unskilled contractors.
  7. Clients should obtain approvals before they begin construction. At the same time, they should work with the approved drawings and specifications. Any alterations should be approved before their implementations.
  8. To promote the safety of buildings therefore, a holistic approach is required whereby all relevant outfits and organisations must be involved apart from the recognised professional bodies.
  9. A regular audit of defective structures must be carried out and such structures marked for demolition should be demolished before it causes havoc on lives and properties.
  10. Government at all levels should intensify public enlightenment, placing emphasis on how building disasters could be prevented rather than managing situations which might be costlier.

The various professional bodies in the building industry also have a duty to constantly educate and remind their members of the ethics of the profession.I believe that if the recommended preventive measures are taken seriously, then the issue of collapsed buildings in our society will be completely eradicated.

ps: So many people have complained that my post are usually too long. I know this is too, really tried to make it shorter. Try to read it to the end, its quite educative and dont forget to leave a comment.

Bear with me, i will surely get better. Much love.

  1. Lady P says:

    Interesting read. The points you raised are very good. I must even add that they are already in place. However, a good idea with no implementation is useless. Lack of implementation due to placing value on money more than the value on life is the issue here. That’s why the Lagos state govt established the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, they are doing their best but in a state with over 40,000 construction sites much more is still needed.


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