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Building Collapses: Causes and Practical Steps to tackle it

With the recent occurrences of building collapses in Nigeria, it has become more imperative to look for permanent, lasting and practical solutions to this menace. Not only do these collapses affect the economy, lives are lost, talents and destroyed and worse off, some careers are destroyed because someone definitely has to take the hit.

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Nigeria is gradually stigmatized by the weight of the frequency of building collapses and if we must be truthful to ourselves, it is not a good way to be known. A lot of these collapses are totally avoidable. Ignorance, laziness, non-chalant attitudes, name it, are responsible for these collapses.

Buildings do not on their own collapse. They do not happen without cause. Fortunately if we can identify causes, we can propose solutions. If we can propose solutions, we can take practical steps to tackle the frequent cases of building collapses in Nigeria.

Causes of Building Collapses in Nigeria

Poor Structural Design

Civil and structural engineers are saddled with the responsibility of designing building structures. An inexperienced, amateur or unprofessional structural engineer may not churn out poor structural designs. This is in reality the foundation of any building in itself.

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If a building cannot support its own weight and other extra loads that it is supposed to carry, it may end up collapsing.

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Using the building other than what it was designed for

Sometimes clients convert a building meant to be used for its original purpose into something else. Imagine a residential building is converted into an office. In some cases, people add more floors to an already completed building. This original building is designed to carry its own weight. Addition of more floors or converting it into one whose purpose would be to carry weight or load other than it was intended to would invariably lead to building collapses.

Construction with sub-standard materials

Here in Nigeria, we still have a long way to go as regards professionalism, standards and respect for human lives. A building that has been very well designed by the engineer but whose implementation is poor is headed towards building collapse. Imagine that substandard materials are used for foundation, for roofing, for fences, it is logical to prepare for building collapses.

Lack of sub-soil investigation

Did you know that it is even important to conduct a research on the soil on which a building is to be erected? Sometimes, a building begins to noticeably tilt and submerge below the top soil level before a collapse occurs. It is surprising that even with this noticeably loud building collapse signals, some people ignore and continue to inhabit these buildings even though danger is imminent.

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What can be done to tackle building collapses in Nigeria? Apparently many of the factors that contribute to the building collapses are human based and can be controlled.

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Practical Steps to tackling building collapses in Nigeria

Strict measures should be put in place by the government

The government of Nigeria should put measures in place to curb the misuse of buildings for which it was intended to. Sanctions should be rolled out to engineers, building owners and even artisans who refuse to adhere to normal standard practice. Building collapse is more serious than we appear to treat it in Nigeria. If one or two disciplinary measures are taken against defaulters, it will sound as a warning to intending defaulters.

Quacks should be totally flushed out of the system

One of the major problems affecting the nation is the proliferation of quacks. This has eaten deep into every sphere of business in Nigeria. It is however unfortunate to have these set of people represent in sensitive and very important sectors of Nigeria.

The rate at which quacks multiply is alarming and if nothing is done, people who have no idea what building design should be approved would go on to. This not exempt artisans.

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Proper supervision of building projects

To save costs, a lot of things are done to the detriment of a building’s integrity. If building projects are well supervised, four bags of cement would not be used where there should be five used.

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Engineers and projects supervisors can either be lazy or take intentional moves to make sure things go according to plan when it’s time to implement what’s on paper.

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Mass orientation of the public about common causes of building collapses

COREN, NSE and other professional bodies should organize platforms to get the populace oriented about building collapses, causes and steps to avoid them. It would shock you to know that a few property owners are innocently ignorant about simple measures to be taken to avoid building collapses.

Technical competence of contractors should assessed

Property owners should be careful of who they give out their projects to. To avoid building collapse, due diligence should be done. It is better to employ contractors based on referrals and their credibility. Contractors also popularly known for quality can be approached in cases where personal investigation cannot be conducted.

In conclusion, if we take proactive measures, we can drastically reduce the frequency of building collapses in Nigeria if not totally eradicate it. We only need to make simple changes and we will be on our way to having better buildings.

In your own opinion, what other steps can be used to combat building collapses in Nigeria?