…Building collapse claims many lives in Nigeria annually
In 2019 alone, Nigeria recorded at least 43 incidents of building collapse across the country.
According to a recent report by the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, an advocacy group of built environment professionals, Lagos had the highest figure with 17 cases, accounting for about 39.53 per cent of the total number of collapsed buildings in Nigeria.
Other states that recorded incidents of building collapse in the country in 2019 included Anambra, Plateau and Delta states.
Oyo, Enugu, Ondo and Osun, Imo, Kwara, Abia, Adamawa and Katsina also recorded incidents of building collapse.
What is building collapse?
A building collapse refers to the failure of a structure or component to maintain its structural integrity.
Some of the major causes of building collapse in Nigeria can be traced to the following:
1. Poor or Bad Designs: Faulty architectural and engineering drawings may occur if the Architect fails to insist on carrying out basic preliminary design studies such as feasibility studies, soil investigation, and site investigation.
Poor detailing of drawings, low quality materials and work specifications also contribute to building collapse.
Also, the failure of civil or structural engineers to carry out soil test, proper foundation design also leads to building failures. Errors, omissions and inaccurate design information from the professionals may result to problems if not detected on time.
2. Faulty Construction: This occurs when the contactor fails to carry out the works in accordance with the Architects’ and engineers’ details and specifications. The main aim of contractors is to maximize profit; hence sometimes specified materials are illegally substituted with substandard ones.
3. Use of Poor-Quality Materials: The frequent use of inferior building materials contributes to building failure. More so, the inadequacy of laboratories to carry out tensile strength of irons, concrete cube tests for concrete, and water quality pose serious threats to the building structure.
4. Neglect of Building or Planning Permit: In an organized society, no physical construction work is supposed to commence without approved of plans from the control unit of the approving authority. Many times, in Nigeria, defective or incomplete drawings are used for construction without approval.
5. Corruption: Corruption, which is the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment cuts across all sectors of life. This is no different when it comes to civil construction works. Sometimes, by greasing the right palms, drawings are not checked by officers of the approving authority to detect defects.
6. Non-compliance to approved plans: This happens on the site in the form of illegal modification of the approved drawings. Sometimes, a building design originally specified to undergo in-suit concreting is changed to precast methods.
7. Patronage of Unqualified Engineers: The use of untrained or unqualified professionals as principals on construction sites is one of the major causes of building collapse in Nigeria. This is due to the inability of the inexperienced personnel to detect fraudulent practices of smart contractors to covering up sharp practices.
8. Engagement of Inexperienced Contractors: In Nigeria today, engagement of contractors normally does not always follow the contract procedures especially where such contract is awarded based on political or business connections. This may lead to situations where such contract is sold off to an incompetent contractor. The result is always abysmal performance by the contractor which may eventually lead to building collapse.
9. Lack Of Proper Supervision, Monitoring And Inspection Of Construction Works: This is the fault of the professionals engaged to handle the supervisor of the project. The person is guilty and liable to be sued for negligence of professional duties.
10. Arbitrary Conversion, Alteration and Additions Of Existing Structures: This unwholesome practice is common in Nigeria; especially the new emerging cities e.g. converting a residential building for another purpose say factory building. This is very dangerous because, heavy machines and equipment may be placed on the suspended floor thereby causing vibrations that may upset the stability of the building.
Also, imposing additional floor(s) beyond the original design provision is a major cause of building collapse in Nigeria today. A typical example is the recent collapse of the 8- Storey building under construction along Yar’Adua Drive in Owerri Imo State Capital on April 30, 2020.
11. Client’s Undue Interference: Many times, client makes series of changes to the design at various stages of construction in connivance with the contractor without the consent of the professional consultant. This act can lead to failure of the component of the building.
12. Fire Outbreak: Many materials used in building construction are prone to fire attack, thereby creating weakness on the structural elements e.g. woods, iron and steel reinforcement components. This may lead to partial or total collapse of the building because the materials can no longer provide enough support and stability to the component and the main structure.
What Government, practicing professionals must do to end the menace
Below are suggestions on the possible solutions to the menace of incessant building collapse in Nigeriaby both the government and the professionals in the building construction industry.
- There should be adequate planning, supervision, and monitoring of the building construction activities to ensure that all buildings are built according to design specifications and planning regulations.
- Urban or Town Planning Development Boards should enforce compliance of building works in accordance with the urban and regional planning laws.
- Standards Organisation of Nigeria should enforce compliance to ensure that all building materials shipped into Nigeria conform to the standard requirements.
- All building plans submitted for approval by developers must meet standard requirements.
- Standards Organisation of Nigeria should set the minimum standard of building materials and also monitor them to ensure quality control.
- There is an urgent need to establish materials testing laboratories in the country.
- There is a need to maintain professional integrity and ethics by individual professionals in accordance with the standard practice procedures as obtain in the Standard Form of Building Contracts (SFBC) in Nigeria.
- It is very important that professional bodies such Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN) in Nigeria should organize periodic public awareness campaign through mass media to sensitize the public on the advantages of using professionals to constructing safe buildings.
- All professionals in the building industry should discharge their obligations.
- Architects should play his/her duty as the prime consultant to ensure that client uses the right and recommended professionals. This can be achieved by ensuring that all the drawings are stamped and signed by registered professionals with professional bodies.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria in recent years has witnessed series of building collapse in different magnitudes. Some of those buildings were under construction, while a lot of them were into post occupancy period. From the research findings, most of the causes identified were as a result of human errors with less from natural disasters.
Corruption as bane to Nigeria’s problem is human. Greed by contractors, shortcut syndrome by clients to reduce cost resulting to the use of poor-quality building materials and the practice of quackery.
The professionals in the building construction industry should be active in discharging their duties and obligations. They should also promote professionalism and discourage quackery through proper regulations by their respective professional council bodies.
Government should employ building professionals in the planning and approval departments that would enforce compliance to building laws, standard code of practice in order to achieve safe, secure and comfortable buildings for the society.
- Assoc. Prof. I. G. Chendo and Arc. N. I. Obi (October, 2015); ‘Building collapse in Nigeria: the causes, effects, consequences and remedies. Department of Architecture, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus
- www.google.com/https://www.safeopedia.com>collapse. October 14, 2018.