By Chucks Omeife, Former
Why will building not collapse? if you look at the constituents of the carcass of the collapse that happened at Oshodi sometimes ago, the said building and from what people are saying, the obvious truth is that the process of construction was badly managed even if the owner has complied with existing approval regulation by submitting all necessary designs duly signed by required professionals for approval, why would the same regulation not regulate the process of construction which has been the major reason for all the building collapses in this country.
Until this construction process is properly regulated, buildings will continue to collapse because that stage that should entail strict professional management has been allowed to be an all comer affair.
What we are saying is that let the regulation provide that the owner must engage the services of a professional builder known to law whose core expertise is Building Production Management – who can be held responsible in the event of collapse to manage this process of construction. It was in anticipation of problems of this nature among others that prompted many years ago the establishment of Building as a discipline in tertiary institutions across Nigeria to produce graduates whose expertise will be to manage this process of building construction in all ramifications.
Modern buildings are complex in design and dynamic in nature and very different from what obtains in the past and as such training and specialization in this area has become very necessary and relevant if we must meet up with current trend in the industry as practised all over the world.
The question to ask now which is very unfortunate is that who is the person or the professional in charge of the construction process- in terms of co-coordinating the activities of all persons – artisans and craftsmen involved and certifying adequacy in quality and quantity of the materials used in the work. Only the Builder by training and competence is equipped to carry out this role among the built environment professionals.
Too much emphasis has been given to the approval process to the negligence of the construction process. Buildings don’t collapse on papers even if there is an error and a well designed building can still collapse if the construction process is not well managed. So the critical and major solution to building collapse is to regulate the construction process.
Why must we keep recycling laws even when we have realised that they have outlived their usefulness and cannot cope with modern trend and dynamics in the construction industry and the society.
In the past we used to have building inspectors who monitor both urban development and building control. Today we need inspectors who will be in charge of Building control different from those in charge of development control. These are two different areas of control with different professionals with specific knowledge in certain areas to manage.
It was working in those days because there was a bit of sanity and little development going on all around and people were very conscious and ready to abide by the necessary regulations and laws as required. Today the story is different, the rate of development is high and buildings are springing up at every nook and cranny of the state. What one expects at this time is a serious professionalization of the ministry of urban and physical planning for effective service delivery to the people not trying to maintain an outdated status quo.
It could be excused that maybe because they have not started the implementation the new law in Lagos that is why we are still experiencing collapses. Let me say with all responsibility that the new law might not totally curb the issue of collapse because of the attached primordial sentiments and entrenched positions given to the approval process/stage with little emphasis on the regulation of the construction process in the new Lagos state law. There is no way result can be achieved if the different professions in the industry are not allowed to managed their roles based on their core specialization during approval and during construction. We must start thinking seriously of giving respect to ourselves professionally. Time has passed when one person or one profession can claim to be all knowing, for if it were so there would not have been any need for other professions coming on board. Yes our roles complement one another and our training is tailored towards a specific aspect in the industry and our knowledge base differs substantially. The thing to exploit is how to bring out the best in each of us i.e. the professions based on our training to positively raise the benchmark for better service delivery in the Industry. I have raised a lot of questions on the new law and I have been told that my fears and reservation will be addressed in the process of operationalising the law. We will wait and see. The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) was part of the professional group that was invited to deliberate on the law and to see how the law can be effectively implemented. We have made our submissions and we await the final outcome of our deliberation.
It is important for Lagos state because of its megacity status to start thinking of either to increase the work force in the ministry to cope with the rate of development, the expansion of areas of development and building control. The other option is to collaborate with professionals in the built environment on an agreed basis to involve them in the building control as per their input in the whole process of development. The way it is now the ministry is highly understaffed to cope with the enormous responsibility in this area. Also engagement of professionals as consultants to manage different localities is another good option.