Of builders, quacks and safe buildings in Nigeria
Building construction is one of the most important activities of any economy and a large proportion of the country’s resources are usually used in the construction and maintenance of buildings.
The history of the building industry is as old as human civilization and the industry evolves with the evolution of human settlement and culture. The industry has over time, in an attempt to overcome evolving challenges as a result of the increasing complexity of human settlement, culminated into a specialisation that seeks to enhance efficient and economical service delivery.
The construction of a building project of any kind involves the services of many people, who design, construct and maintain it from conception to completion, and terminal demolition. The building project team members range from architects, quantity surveyors, builders, structural and civil engineers, facilities and construction management, contractors, suppliers, lawyers among others.
The importance of the professionals in the construction industry cannot be overemphasized because building projects is a complex one. In Nigeria, it is, nevertheless, baffling that there still exists confusion and misinterpretation of the roles of some of the professionals and artisans in the management of construction projects. The building process has been faced with such problems as patronage of quacks, greed, and corruption, which often result in the sad occurrence of building collapse.
Sadly, the ugly phenomenon of building collapse has cut short the lives of many economically active Nigerians, maim countless persons, and led to the loss of assets worth trillions of naira. In 2019, the country recorded not less than 43 incidents within the year. Figures from the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, an advocacy group of built environment professionals, indicated that Lagos has the highest figure with 17 cases, indicating about 39.53 percent of the total number of collapse buildings. Anambra has the second highest with six collapsed buildings, while Plateau and Delta states recorded three each. Though, building collapse is not limited to Nigeria, but the way it is being handled in Nigeria is quite disturbing, to say the least.
Incessant buildings collapse has invariably made many conclude that builders are killers. But the question many have not bothered to ask is if any or all the collapsed buildings in Nigeria were built by certified builders? The answer is an emphatic ‘NO’. In most instances, if not all, collapse buildings are built by quacks as the built industry has remained an all comer’s affairs.
It might also be asked, who is a builder? A builder is a professional at the centre of the physical construction of buildings. He or she is an academically trained specialist and statutorily registered professional responsible for Building Production Management, Construction, and Maintenance of Building for the use and protection of mankind.
The documents earlier prepared by other professionals, especially designed by the architect, are handed over to the builder, who studies the production information in the drawings, schedules, and specifications and then analyzes the buildability and maintainability of the building. He advises on the construction method, programmes, assesses the workmanship skill of the artisan, and suggests solutions to technical problems. His role in the building development process, in general, is to construct the building, which he does by taking charge of the activities on a building construction site in translating designs, working drawings, schedules and specifications into a physical structure.
The builder assembles and combines all materials listed by the quantity surveyor to make a living abode. It is baffling that many Nigerians are still not patronizing certified builders for the construction and maintenance of their buildings. They give their building works to quacks, in spite of an increase in public education on why qualified builders should be engaged for construction work.
The truth is that the same way a rewire or panel beater is different from a mechanic, so is the builder’s role different from that of other professionals and artisans that people commonly assigned the job of builders. For instance, a developer can alter the original plan of a building and add unapproved structure to approved buildings. A certified builder dare not do that except he is ready to have his certificate revoke.
Rightly, numerous stakeholders are now bringing to the fore the need to embrace the culture of DOING THE RIGHT THING. For instance, the Nigeria institute of building (NIOB), Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON), and human rights lawyers are now insisting on the use of registered builders in the building construction to ensure safety and increase professionalism in the building industry.
In a speech delivered at the “Builders’ Day” in March 2020, the NIOB enjoined professional builders to take their rightful place in the building production process and strive to meet the expectations of the Nigerian people in the constant and successful delivery of quality, affordable, safe and durable buildings.
The Lagos Branch of the same Institute equally made “Safe and Sustainable Buildings in Lagos State” theme of its 29th Lagos Builders Conference and Annual General Meeting. The theme chosen by the Builders further buttresses the concern and commitment of the professionals to enlighten the public and effect change in the way we look at the building sector.
Building collapses cast a dent and a slur on our national image. It is, therefore, important to understand that not everybody found on-site building a structure is a builder. The right thing to do before starting a building project is to engage a registered builder. The duty of the Architect is architectural drawings to suit the land.
Structural Engineers come in to do structural designs to ensure structural stability of the structure and an engineer must be engaged to do engineering drawings of the project. Lawyers are supposed to be part of the construction team members, and their responsibility is to search titles on land and prepare the deed of assignment when the land transaction negotiation for transfer is concluded.
To put an end to the harrowing tragedy of building collapse, every discerning mind must lend voice to the message echo at the maiden edition of “Builders Day” in March 2020, wherein the NIOB came up with the message that “Enough is enough of building collapse in Nigeria”.
Certified builders should on their part embrace honesty and diligence by giving clients value for their money. What can help the cause of the professional builders is functional satisfaction of building owners, aesthetic satisfaction, completion on time, and completion within budget, value for money, and health and safety.
Relevant authorities should also ensure that sub-standard buildings materials are cleared from the market. It has been known that most of the collapse buildings were built with inferior products or with structural defects. Furthermore, the need for national building codes to be strictly enforced by all tiers of the government cannot be overemphasized. In Lagos State, for instance, this is where such agencies like Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA) and Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory have been stepping up their acts in the overall interest of all.
Musbau is public affairs officer, Lagos State Infrastructure Asset Management Agency, Alausa, Ikeja.
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