Nigeria’s construction industry has been in the spotlight for horrendous reasons in the past few days, triggered by reports on building collapse in parts of the country.
The Africa’s most populous nation has recorded a staggering 552 cases of building collapse in the last 50 years.
Out of that number, 59 percent (326) of these tragedies have been recorded in Lagos State, according to the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) report.
Lagos State recorded 115 incidents of building collapse within the last 10 years. Between 2020 and 2022, it recorded the highest number of building collapse incidents in the last decade. Each year witnessed 20 different cases.
Sadly, the second most recent is the seven-storey building (under construction) on First Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi, that collapsed.
Banana Island is an artificial island off the foreshore of Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria – revered to be the country’s most extravagant and expensive neighbourhood.
A few factors are usually responsible for such colossal disasters. Just to mention a few: When it is not the force of nature then you begin to look at human errors such as the government agencies directly or indirectly responsible, low quality and substandard building materials, lack of professionalism, poor maintenance, inadequate adoption of technology, etc.
Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State Governor, and his team visited the scene of the building collapse at Banana Island. He heaped the blames on ‘reckless developers, irresponsible state officers, and federal agencies as responsible for the disaster’.
“The exercise we are doing today is not just about this location. The extent of what I would call unapproved extensions. We are at the back of the land that is aborting the Lagoon. You can see that the original line for Banana Island is not even here, it is way in front and you can see that there are several extensions granted by both the
Further, the Governor said the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) were culpable for unapproved extensions leading to the collapse.
“We have responsibility for building approval. All of the four buildings at the back never got our approval. This is an illegality that is real and that is why we are going around the properties.
“The excuses that have been given that they don’t have access are not acceptable. It is total recklessness by all the developers and the culpable officers will also be sanctioned.”
Generally, another challenge bedeviling the construction industry is the lack of political will to enforce some of the past studies and recommendations. The conspicuous absence of proper cohesion between government agencies and developers is also another major problem, according to stakeholders in the building sector.
However, just as it has been done in other developed countries, some technologies can be adopted to ameliorate the challenges.
Some of these technologies – Structural Health Monitoring (SHM), Dampproofing and Waterproofing, Seismic Retrofitting, Building Information Modeling (BIM), Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), etc., have proven to be overwhelmingly effective.
First, Non-Destructive Testing technology has the capacity through the use of techniques such as ultrasonic testing, X-ray radiography, and thermography to detect any crack or defect that may lead to a potential structural collapse of a building.
Another technology is Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is a digital tool that helps developers first create a virtual model of a building before construction begins. It will give an insight into any potential foundational weaknesses and other issues that could lead to building collapse.
The damp-proofing and waterproofing technologies can prevent building collapse as well.
Damp-proofing technologies such as bituminous coatings can help prevent rising dampness while waterproofing technologies are liquid-applied membranes, sheet membranes, and cementitious coatings that can help prevent moisture infiltration.
The final one is seismic retrofitting technology. Many building collapses in Nigeria are due to forces of nature such as flood – but when you retrofit existing buildings with seismic-resistant materials and technologies, a collapse could be prevented.
It involves reinforcing walls and roofs with steel, installing base isolation systems, and using shock absorbers to absorb seismic energy.
Besides the deployment of technologies, the modus operandi should take a more professional shift because high-rise building requires a high level of expertise and technicalities.
This includes both recruitment and developers who are worthy of landing a building construction contract.
Legitimately licensed developers should be considered when constructing a building due to the high risk involved.
In conclusion, the implementation of relevant technologies, combined with professional construction practices, regular maintenance, and strict enforcement of building regulations by the government, can help solve the problem of building collapse in Nigeria.