BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
No fewer than five buildings collapsed in different parts of Lagos State in the past three months, with the attendant loss of lives, all due to human error largely committed by property owners.
The trend became a source of worry to government and residents who are at the mercy of greedy property developers whose aim is to maximize profits through the use of sub-standard materials in construction.
To curtail the trend Governor Babatunde Fashola, announced the immediate take off of the Lagos State Building Control Agency LASBCA, the agency, established to ensure standard in the industry and called for an inter-ministerial collaboration between ministries of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Housing and Environment on measures that will curb the unfortunate incidence of building collapse.
LASBCA was created about 18 months ago for the enforcement of building control regulations and implementation of the 2010 Physical Planning, Urban Development and Building Law in the state.
The functions of LASBCA, led by Mrs. Abimbola Animashaun-Odunayo include: Inspection of building works and the certification of various stages of building construction and keeping of such records; removal of illegal and non-conforming developments; identification and removal of distressed buildings to prevent collapse and; the issuance of Certificate of Completion and Fitness for Habitation.
Other functions are: the provision of building services such as material evaluation and testing, fire and public health control; establishment of District Development Control Offices for the discharge of these functions; Conducting research in building construction and control; Cooperating with the Development Permit Authority to achieve zero tolerance of illegal developments; Enforcing the provisions of the new law and any regulations that may be made under the law for inspection of building, verification and certification of building insurance, among others.
To demonstrate government’s seriousness, LASBCA, in the latest move to prevent distressed buildings from collapse, demolished a shopping plaza, located at Ireti Oluwa Street, Oshodi Local Government, which was under construction, for failing the integrity test. It also marked a 20-year-old Boladale Mosque, located at 29 Boladale Street, Oshodi and three other distressed buildings, with no approved plan and use of sub-standard building materials.
Construction of the mall owned by Alhaji Ibrahim Afolayan, Vanguard gathered, commenced about six months ago and construction was already at the second-floor.
Old buildings inspection
According to a senior official of LASBCA who preferred anonymity, inspection of an old building includes;
Visual observation – This has to do with physical signs that could be seen with naked eye on the wall of a building. There are two types, horizontal and vertical cracks.
When there is an opening with about 5-10 millimetres on a building, which can be measured through a ruler, there is possibility for distress.
Based on the above step, LASBCA serves Contravention Notice, CN, to the owner of the building. In the notice, the agency states the reason why the building was marked. This is followed by Seal Up, SU which is issued 48 hours after.
According to the law, if the building is occupied and it is defected, the agency is expected to serve the occupants quit notice within seven days.
But if the state of the building is very dangerous for habitation that is, it can cave in within a short time, the agency could serve, CN and Quit Notice, QN, simultaneously. According to the law, the quit notice is meant to evacuate the occupants of the building.
However, for a building not in too dangerous state, after the SU, LABSCA will prepare file for approval to evacuate the occupants from the building for the owner of the structure in order to subject it to integrity test.
Integrity test involves compliance to building standard.
Subsequently, a notice is issued to the owner to instruct his engineer to contact the agency on how the intends to conduct the test. At the test stage, the pillar, slabs and beams and others would be tested. The standard is 30 by 30 metres for columns.
And if the result of the test showed that the building is not defective, LASBCA, directs the owner, through his engineer to write a letter to the agency on how the renovation of the building would be done.
If the test proves negative, the agency serves demolition notice, demanding that the building be pulled down.
Visible settlement – When a building is sinking or there is differential settlement-when a part of the building is slanted which can lead to cracks and eventual collapse. Even settlement: where window level of a building shows downward shift
It has also been observed lately that some building shows visible signs of distress as a result of its plastering peeling off, exposing the casting (iron rod). These are exposed to harsh weather, such as rains and sun, which subsequently, corrodes the iron and weakens the effect.
When laying the iron rods, the expected measurement should be about 25 Millimeters MM, calf concrete. (Most developers do not adhere to this).
The iron is supposed to be suspended in the middle of the concrete and not at the bottom as is usually done.
According to the expert; “If the standard is adhered to, the wall of the building can not peel off to the level of exposing the casting. The iron rod, serves as stabilizer. It holds the entire pressure on a building.”
Buildings under construction
APPLICATION for developmentpermit should be sought. There is a guideline to follow for door, window, decking before the approval is granted. A copy of the building’s approved drawings should be sent to LASBCA
If there is contravention on newly completed building, – that is when someone starts construction of a new building, a Stop Work, SW, is served, demanding that the construction be halted. If the owner does not have genuine document, a Seal Up, SU, is issued. And sometimes, demolition is carried out. This confirms that the building in question is an illegal structure.
But if the agency discovered that the owner has genuine documents, the stage inspection exercise commences.
A developer is expected to have architectural/ structural drawings on site. A two to three storey building must have structural drawings. Soil test certificate or result containing details of reinforcement materials, depth of foundation and type of foundation should be available.
A competent site Engineer will carry out soil test and soil pressure to determine the soil component (cement and sand depending the type of soil) before determination of foundation type.
Types of foundation
There is raft foundation and pile (German floor) foundation. Soil test will determine the choice of foundation.
Procedure for certification
The certification process includes: Inspection and certification of various stages of building construction;
Verification of general contractors, developers, engineers among others and issuance of certification of completion and fitness for habitation.
The owner through his contractor would send a letter to the agency on how joint (the agency engineers and the site engineers) stage inspection would be done.
This means that at every stage, there would be material testing, to test the strength of the irons and the concretes for the slabs and pillars and all the facilities that must be provided within the construction premises.
Buildings at 70% completion
IF the building is at 70 percent completion before the agency discovers it, the owner must subject its structure to integrity test, to know the status of the building.
Marked new buildings
This happens when during construction, we issued all the necessary notice but rather than comply, the owner continued with the construction of the building. Even if the building is completed and the owner paints it to show that the building was new, we will mark it because we have the records of the building.
Types of marking
SW, Stop Work, DN, Distress Notice, QN, Quits Notice, these are served on registered Engineers.
LASBCA only embarks on demolition after three notices must have been served and the owner is not forthcoming.
The cost of demolition is settled in two way – After the demolition of a distressed building, the government through the agency bears the cost.
But after the demolition exercise, when the owner is about to rebuild on the land, the owner will be required to secure building approval.
When he or she comes forward for such documents, he will be mandated to pay for the cost of the demolition.
However, until the owner pays he will not be able to construct a new building on his land. The building process begins again.
Lagos State BuildingS Control Law requirements
Any building that does not conform to the following requirements, risk
contravention of building control laws
•Building control in all its ramification (foundation to roofing)
•Approval to commence construction after obtaining development permit
•Inspection and certification of various stages of building construction
•Verification of general contractors’ all risk and building insurance policy
•Issuance of certificate of completion and fitness for habitation.
•Identification and removal of distressed and non-conforming buildings
•Public health control in buildings, (ramp)
•Fire safety requirements of buildings(fire extinguishers)