‘Building control agency should be on concurrent list’
Professional architects have moved to ensure that only firms duly registered in Nigeria and foreign ones practise in collaboration with a qualified Nigerian entity. This was made known by the President, Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria, MR. KITOYI IBARE-AKINSAN in an interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA. He also spoke on other sundry issues in the built environment.
How will you rate the performance of Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ACANigeria) since inception?
ACANigeria is an Association of architectural firms. Its objective is to ensure that consulting architects registered by Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) as private architectural firms are able to adequately represent the status of the association with clients and the public by exhibiting a minimum standard of proficiency, integrity and in exchange be adequately remunerated.
The association is 10 years old, and has succeeded in planting the seed of this objective among member firms. It has put in place continuous and regular seminars, which ensures that members acquire modern techniques for managing of architectural projects. The association has improved the profession, but it still has a long way to go.
The influx of foreign professionals in built and construction industry has remained a problem. What is your association doing about it?
This is a major source of professional concern to us. Yes, it is true that there are foreign professionals in the industry while there is an unacceptable level of Nigerian professionals not participating in the industry.
As regards what the organisation is doing about it, there are three bodies managing the affairs of the profession of architecture in Nigeria. These are ACANigeria, Nigerian Institute of Architects(NIA) and ARCON.
ACANigeria is working with ARCON to ensure that only firms duly registered to practice in Nigeria are allowed to do so with a provision that where a foreign architectural firm is required, it shall be in collaboration with a qualified Nigerian firm performing and earning a minimum of 40 per cent.
When a building collapses, the professional bodies exempt building professionals. Why should the architects and structural engineers that participated in the designs not be culpable? What can be done to halt alarming cases of collapsed buildings in Nigeria?
This question is in two parts. The first part concerns the culpability of building professionals every time a building collapses. The second part is what can be done to stop the alarming cases of building collapse.
With regards to the first part, please be assured that building professional drawings undergo approval by government building control agency before a statutory permit is issued for construction on site.
That process ordinarily should ensure that the drawings are adequate for the construction. However at this stage of our development in Nigeria, the staffing of the building control agency is work in progress and it is critical to the success of the agency, and the stoppage of building collapse.
Secondly, I am of the view that in the construction industry, we need to borrow from the aviation industry in the setting up of the building control agency, so that incidences of building collapse can be prevented and properly investigated when they occur. The setting up of the agency should be on the concurrent list so that all states have an agency while the federal has a master agency set up in a way to technically assist the states. Even in Lagos State, the building control agency is still to be fully effective. This agency is critical in eradicating the alarming cases of building collapse. One can say that the incidence of building collapse is more prevalent in small-scale projects where the owners of the project are starving the project of critical funding for qualified professionals and artisans and supervisors, and the contractor is so badly funded as to resort to use of poor building materials.
What has been the relationship between architects and the levels of governments and don’t you think that architects have not supported government in providing affordable housing through its designs?
Provision of houses is a business, and the issue is our inability as a nation to provide a market for poorer members of the society through all kinds of technological and economic subsidies. That is the way to generate affordable housing. Some architects have produced designs for affordable houses in our various universities, but there has not been the desired focus by the housing ministries to follow up on the research and undertake development of prototypes.
Globally, green building designs are trending and developers are committing to it. What is your Association doing to ensure Nigerians adopt green building designs?
Green building technological idea and concept are still at infancy in Nigeria. Building green involves a sophisticated scientific approach to ensuring utilisation of design, materials and construction methods that will result in optimisation of use of energy in the construction industry. Presently, Nigeria does not even have enough energy to power all our economic and social activities making green technology take a back seat for now. However, green technology will in the long run, reduce our energy consumption. For now our association is creating awareness of green technology within our membership through seminars by experts in the field.