It is a sad reality that a nation like Nigeria that has numerous ills troubling its polity, still have to contend with the menace of building collapse. And after this tragedy occurs, we seem not to be asking the right questions, rather we focus on counting numbers of our loss, and even when panels of inquiries were opened, most times they don’t get to a viable conclusion.
I have once witnessed, a building collapse incident and believe me, it was not a pleasant scene getting to pull bodies out of debris, with that silent prayer in your heart “Oh Lord, please spare the life of this one”
Just last week, Kenya witnessed a terrible disaster when a six-storey residence in Kenya’s capital Nairobi came down in heavy rain, killing 33 people with more than 80 people still missing.
While investigations are still underway into the cause of this collapse, let’s look at questions we ought to ask in preventing such disastrous human disaster.
- Does my builders possess the necessary profession skills to execute the project?
Sometimes even when workers are given the right materials to make the concrete, they mix them incorrectly. This results in concrete which is not of the sufficient strength to hold the load.
Also, contractors employ inexperienced masons in order to cut cost, and when you visit such construction sites, you hear them always asking of the ‘mixing formula’
- Are the building materials strong enough?
It sickens my heart when materials that just aren’t strong enough to withhold the load are used in building, and most times the building contractors are aware of this, but they chose to ignore for their own selfish gains. Also these contractors uses scrap meters instead of steels.
So as a contractor, as a builder, there is a need to pause and ask this sensitive question, are the building materials good enough?
3. Is the strength of my building tested?
At all points of construction the strength of the building should be tested.
There is a need for one to be strict when testing the designated strength of a building, as the Law recommends such strict policy, sadly it is the enforcement that becomes a problem. So that moment, contractors for whatever reasons starts skipping ‘strength test’ then building collapse becomes inevitable.
- Are the foundations are too weak?
Truth be told, adequate foundations can be costly. Sometimes they can cost up to half the price of a building. But should this be a reason to leave your building at the risk of your building collapsing? Thus, putting your investment at risk and the life of others too?
They are two things to consider when you are building the foundations – the solidity of the soil and the heaviness of the building and its contents.
In the commercial capital of his country, Lagos, the swampy ground requires strong foundations. Far stronger than solid ground.
Sadly, developers save money that should be spent on foundations when building on the city’s swampy ground and many buildings have collapsed in Lagos as a result.
Even on solid ground, foundations need to be strong enough for the load. Inadequate foundations for a four-storey building was one of three reasons given by investigators for a building collapsing in northern Rwanda in 2013 and killing six people.
- Is my building carrying much load than expected?
Expert research has it that, a building collapses when the load is beyond the strength of the building.
A good example is asking a baby to carry a heavy box, you will discover that the baby will not be able to withhold the strain.
Even if the foundations and the materials are strong enough for what they were originally built for, that purpose may change. For instance, if a building was designed to be a home and is then turned into a library where boxes and boxes of books are piled up, the building may strain under the weight.
Also, another reason why the load is often heavier than the original design is because extra storeys are added.
In March an upmarket apartment block which had more storeys than planned collapsed in Lagos, killing 34 people.
This came two years after a church accommodation for the famous preacher TB Joshua collapsed, also, authorities said, because it had more floors than it could hold In that case more than 100 people lost their lives.