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Building Collapse: Experts call for strict enforcement of national building code

By Kingley Adegboye

As reactions continue to trail last Wednesday’s     collapsed building at Ita Faji Street, Lagos Island, killing several children and injuring scores of others, professionals in the built environment have noted that strict enforcement of building code by developers is the panacea to the unabated menace of building collapse in the country,

Blaming incessant building collapse on shoddy building construction arising from use of sub-standard materials all in a bid to cut corners, the professionals insist that strict enforcement of the code will eliminate quackery from housing delivery while standard buildings will be guaranteed across the country.

Reacting to Ita Faji collapsed building in Lagos Island and the three-storey building under construction that collapsed in Ibadan within days interval, the spokesperson for Lagos state chapter of Building Collapse Prevention Guild BCPG, a foremost body championing advocacy on prevention of building collapse in the country, Arc. Augustine Otuoke, said

Emergency and rescue personnel are seen at the site of a building which collapsed in Lagos on March 13, 2019. – At least 10 children were among scores of people missing on March 13, 2019 after a four-storey building collapsed in Lagos, with rescuers trying to reach them through the roof of the damaged structure. The children were attending a nursery and primary school on the top floor of the residential building when the structure collapsed. Police said they believed scores of people were trapped under the rubble. (Photo/ AFP)

“Ordinarily, if the Ita Faji building was built professionals you can be sure that the story would have been different. This goes to unearth the fact that standard processes and procedures for construction must have been thoroughly compromised in terms of appropriate design , proper documentation, right construction procedure and professional supervision as well as appropriate control by personnel of the regulatory agencies of government.

“Statistics obtained from Lagos State building Control Agency LASBCA, revealed that over 75 per cent of the buildings that are collapsing are the ones built by developers. This means that developers in their quest to cut corners to maximise profit, habitually compromise and jettison professionalism.

“The collapsed building we are told, was a mix use housing a school and residents. The question begging for answer is , was the building originally designed and built for mix use or was it adapted for mix use after construction?. The superimposed load to habour a school is not the same for a residential use, particularly on the upper floors.

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“While the superimposed load for a school is about 5.0kN/m2 , residential is between 1.5kN/m2 to 2kN/m2 . By using a building structurally designed as residential for a school puts the lives of occupants at a great risk and sets the building on the path of collapse.

“The Lagos state government has penciled about 1000 distressed buildings for demolition , what is preventing this action ; lack of administrative will and politicking with the lives and safety of residents of Lagos . Government should rise up and do the right thing irrespective of whose ox is gored , as a stitch in time saves nine.

“Government should know that many of it’s regulatory personnel are negligent and compromised. They should embark on outsource of it’s regulatory functions as the task of preventing building collapse is obviously getting beyond the ability of the government personnel to handle.

Speaking with journalists weekend over the Ita Faji collapse, Amos Alao, an architect and National Secretary of Landscape Architects of Nigeria SLAN, said the strict enforcement of the Nigerian building code will avert the recurring building collapse in Nigeria.

The landscape expert said it was necessary to go back to the drawing board in order to avert recurring building collapse in the country by enforcing the national building code

He said: “There have been so many perspectives to building collapse in Nigeria. Some have talked about the structural analysis, architecture or engineering failure, but little is said about the land on which the buildings are standing on.

“We are yet to implement the Nigerian building code which covers that if you are going to build a high rise building, it is supposed to have a certain percentage of soil volume or capacity to hold it. A lot of things are wrong with the Nigerian construction industry, everybody has this fault, from the manufacturers, to the clients, the engineers and the marketers. “There is a Nigerian building code that needs to be implemented to overhaul the Nigerian construction industry; we need to start from the implementation and enforcement of the building code.

“The code contains what a building requires, for example escape routes, exit routes, all these parameters are stated in the building code. He said the building code should contain the provision of facilities a building requires so that in emergency cases, disaster managers could quickly rescue victims like in the recent building collapse in Lagos.

“The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing should be charged with the responsibility of implementing and enforcing the Nigerian building code. With the building code, the responsibility of every engineer will be clearly outlined in the construction of any building without cross-carpeting responsibilities”, Alao said.

Alao, who also called for the vetting of building materials imported into the country, while importers of fake building materials are to be brought to book.  He disclosed that engineers have always had the bulk of the blame for most of the collapses in the country, adding that they are either blamed for structural designs or low quality materials.

“It is high time we sanctioned the importers of inferior building materials. The engineer purchases iron rods from the market that do not fit the strength specification for the building because its quality was reduced by the marketers. It is not the job of the engineer to check how strong the metal is, if he completely trusts the marketers.

“In most building collapse, the client/owner of the building should be held responsible also. The engineers may complain about the quality of the building materials and the clients can insist they go ahead. When such buildings collapse, the professionals are always held responsible and the clients are nowhere to be found. Every developer is responsible for everybody on the site.

“The expert also called on builders to adhere to the books when constructing a building and not cutting corners. Nigeria can get building construction right with plenty of research. For instance, the oldest storey building in Badagry. We have others also at Calabar and the first suspended floor in Lokoja. All of these buildings were erected by Nigerians with the input of the Whites, meaning that it is possible to have good quality buildings in Nigeria.

“Why our buildings presently cannot stand the test of time is largely because of the materials used. For instance, the textbook says use clean water to mix cement, but here in Nigeria our water is not clean. When we make use of unclean water to mix cement, we should not expect to get the same strength with cement mixed with clean water”, he stated.

 


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