Increasing Building Collapses: Signs of distress to note

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By Salaudeen Raimot

Increasing collapse of buildings have been a source of concern recently. Building collapse could happen for quite a number of reasons; which could be as a result of an act of terrorism, a structural failure, natural disasters like earthquake, flooding, landslide, tornado or a mudslide.

Nigeria has suffered its share of building collapse in the past with several cases of buildings collapsing and killing scores of people. However, that number has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.

On July 11, 2020, Nigeria was hit by a tragedy when a building collapsed in lagos; killing over 20 people. On July 29, 2020, a building collapsed in the Shomolu Bariga area of Lagos State. On June 24, a building collapsed in Ebute-Metta area of Lagos State, which left many dead. Also, on June 17,  2020 a building collapsed in the Ogudu area of Lagos State.

The fact remains that buildings do not just collapse. There are always warning signs. In many cases, the building control agency of several states in Nigeria carry out a non-destructive integrity test.

This test according to real estate professionals is to ascertain the structural stability of the building. This helps the state know if such buildings can be renovated or re-engineered.

In cases where buildings are detected to have a defect, building owners are asked to take the test before further actions are taken by the State.

 Here is a list of 7 warning signs that should not be taken for granted.

The moment these are noticed, the building should be immediately evacuated, and a point be made to notify Local Council Development Area (LCDA): 

1.) Major cracks in the wall:

Thermal movement remains one of the most potent causes of cracks to appear in the walls of buildings. If overlooked, this could eventually lead to the collapse of the building.

A crack in the wall of a building is a natural sign that the structure is unable to accommodate the movement or load to which it is subjected. When cracks appear in the walls of a building, it is either a structural crack or a non-structural crack.

While structural cracks appear as a result of incorrect design, faulty construction or overloading, non-structural cracks appear due to internally induced stress on the materials used in constructing a Buildings.

2.) Gaps between floors:

When there are gaps between the walls and floors of a building, you must understand that this is a structural defect that could end very badly.

Uneven spaces and sloping floors are not to be taken lightly. For instance, take a look at the house from the street. Is the front entrance straight? For contemporary homes, sloping floors are a really bad sign.

3.) Deteriorating support structure:

 Deterioration can result due to different reasons including: substandard materials used. As building component fails, they can only impact on the exterior walls, the collapse of interior floors can push against masonry exterior walls and this eventually paves the way the collapsing of the buildings.

4.) Tears and fissures in foundation structure: 

This can also happen when a fissures appears in welds of steel during construction. A building is likely to undergo a progressive collapse, when a primary structural elements fails, resulting in the failure of adjoining structural elements which in turn, causes further structural failure culminating in a building collapse.

5.) Deformed siding: 

Siding protects your building from the moisture and the elements. It can be found on the inside and outside the walls of the buildings that are well constructed. When not keep in good condition, it can deteriorate and result in weakening of foundational structures.

6.) Creaking and popping sounds: 

When the house you live in starts making a creaking popping sound, you should be worried. When a house creaks, what is happening is that the metal parts contract much more than the wood does. As a result, the nails, pipes and air ducts rub against the wood.

Also, the wood rubs and grinds against other wooden parts of  the structure, which creates the creaking sounds. If you ever find yourself hearing word sounds and cracks especially during strong winds, it’s a sign you should pay attention to it.

7.) Mould and water stains on walls and collapsing of ceilings: 

There is usually one way mould and roots are caused for water to get to parts of the house that should not be wet, which is called moisture penetration by professionals. When there is an excess of moisture that can’t escape through within the structure of the house, it is called a damp. The natural tendency of moisture is to spread out from wet parts of a house to dry areas.

8.) Moving house: 

One of the most dangerous warnings of an impending collapse is when the house is moving. The movement here does not refer to the way human moves. Rather, this means that over a period of time, a certain part of the house has shifted from the original position as a result of foundation problems. Technologically, when the foundation of the building shifts, it sets into motion a disturbing number of serious events throughout the house, which forces the house to move.

According to an Architect, Mr. Folarin Peters, “Most of these collapses are caused by usage of poor building materials by house builders.

“A building does not suddenly collapse in one night without any warning sign. The signs are usually there to be seen. One of the biggest problem with these signs is that if neglected, they make the collapse of the building inevitable,” he said.