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Building collapse: Architects, engineers, builders blame govt

Building collapse: Architects, engineers, builders blame govt

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The Ita-Faji, Lagos Island building collapse has, once again, brought to the fore the frequency of the problem nation-wide. Concerned citizens are pointing fingers at developers for shoddy construction by adding floors to existing buildings and compromising their integrity. The government, some professionals claim, are culpable because of poor or lack of regulation. OKWY IROEGBU-CHIKEZIE seeks stakeholders’views.

The unfortunate building collapse, which occurred last week on Lagos Island, has raised a lot of concerns. The ill-fated three-storey structure with a pent house, housing Ohen Nursery and Primary School, collapsed at about 10am, leaving many pupils and a few adults dead. Its owner was, however,  rescued alive with other members of his family. The building, it was learnt, got renovated and managed by a developer who has a 10-year lease, which started in 2010.

The Nation gathered that most of the buildings in the area were already marked for structural audit/demolition, and the collapsed  building, approved for residential purpose, but used for commercial purposes, was one of those marked.

Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos Chapter Chairman,  Fitzgerald Umah, said the lack of resolve by the government to stem this tide of carnage, has clearly shown that bureaucracy and the need to accommodate certain interests are counterproductive, adding that the building had been reportedly marked for demolition before the incident.

He said the Lagos chapter of NIA had canvassed the option of assisting the relevant authorities and agencies at all levels on the repeated intention of government to sanitise the unwholesome built environment and monitor buildings under construction for both compliance with statutory requirements, design suitability and structural stability.

He wondered why it has been difficult and seemingly impossible to implement the laws and proffered solutions spanning over a decade with the ratification of the National Building Code, which ratified the minimum standard for the construction Industry.

Fitzgerald called on Lagos State government to, without delay,  genuinely start full implementation of the law and solutions proffered by the relevant professionals several years ago. None implementation and enforcement of these laws have made abuse and flouting of the laws possible.

Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB) 1st Vice President,  Mr. Kunle Awobodu in a chat with The Nation maintained that many buildings on Lagos lsland are sick as they were not professionally designed or built. According to him, they are constructed by developers who are business men with little knowledge about the complexities associated with construction.

To him, the collapse could have been prevented if government and the regulatory agencies had taken their duties seriously. He stressed that buildings handled by developers can never meet stipulated standards in the construction sector as their motive is driven by profit.

On what may have caused the collapse, the NIOB boss said unfortunately there are too many interests over the small portion of land on the lsland. Most buildings of the Island, he said, have inadequate air space, are too close to each other and have too many family members interested in them for pecuniary gains.

He said: “Unfortunately most developers do not understand the complexities in the building process. They are mostly driven  by profit with total disregard to regulatory provisions and human lives. The regulatory agencies need to double their efforts to investigate buildings under construction and those already constructed, to ensure that they are built according to laid down regulations. From our studies we have over 1,000 buildings unfit for human habitation on Lagos lsland.”

The Nigeria Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE), Lagos State chapter has also asked regulatory authorities in the Built-Environment to implement stricter regulatory authority to sanitise the sector. They urged the government to do more to ensure that regulatory authorities are empowered to discharge their duties, punish infractions and sanitise the sector.

NICE Chairman, Lagos branch, Mrs Lola Adetona, has absolved engineers of culpability in the spate of building collapse in Lagos. She, however, blamed quacks who venture into construction without any requisite knowledge of the complexities in the sector. In a session with The Nation in Lagos, she maintained that a quack would never know the right mix ratio and aggregates of concrete and sand. She said she said she would not be able to supervise a construction site effectively and should therefore, not be allowed under any condition to superintend such process.

She lamented that quacks had taken over the jobs of professionals as some would-be clients prefer to deal with them, citing cost implications.

Commenting on the building that collapsed, she wondered how a school could have been allowed to operate in that building and in such an environment. She also wondering how the necessary approvals from the relevant government ministries and agencies were got.

Adetona revealed that from investigations the building was originally a residential and wondered how it was allowed to accommodate a school and other businesses. She noted that there is a wide difference between a residential building and a commercial one in terms of  design and load.

“The load design for residential buildings are different from commercial buildings and if the order is changed without the necessary adjustment the result will turn out ugly as we are witnessing now. To check incessant building collapse the government, the professionals and the public should synergise by sharing information and ensuring proper regulation and implementation of available laws,”she said.

NICE National Vice Chairman,   Tokunbo Ajanaku, said building collapse can occur due to several reasons, which include the age of the building, if not maintained as every building is constructed to last 50 years. He encouraged stakeholders’ collaboration to ensure that there is no repeat of the ugly incident.

He also asked the government to strengthen the existing agencies and ensure strict adherence to building code and construction standards,  urging the public to consciously be part of the vanguard to sanitise the sector by complaining to relevant agencies and professional bodies when they believe something is wrong with a particular construction.

He said: “If you see a construction going on with defects report to us and we will report to the government and ensure that necessary sanctions are given out when there is default. The regulatory bodies need to ensure that what they approved is what is constructed. For instance, a building approved as residential should not be converted without changing the dynamics. Once you introduce none designed load to a building such as a dead load like generator or any of such that was not envisaged in the original drawing you are looking for trouble. There should be proper appraisal and retrofitting if you convert the use of building.”

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