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‘Descending slope of technical education accounts for skills gap’


KUNLE AWOBODU is the national president of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB). In this interview with VICTOR GBONEGUN, he spoke on the menace of building collapse and the need for a review of educational curriculum to improve craftsmanship, among other issues.

Nigeria in recent times has been plagued by incessant building collapse, what do you think are the critical challenges to eliminate the menace in states?
The occurrence of building collapse in recent times despite efforts to reverse the trend is an indication that the extant physical planning and urban development policies are yet to be synchronized with appropriate means of implementation. In a diagnosis of the building collapse record, the menace is more prevalent in 2019 than the previous years. A total number of 43 notable collapsed buildings were recorded in 2019 with Lagos State still maintaining the unenviable lead with 40 per cent. Anambra State is in the second position with 14 per cent while Plateau State occupies the third position with 7 per cent.

The wide spread of building collapse in 2019 shows that building collapse is a national problem which resulted in the loss of 59 human lives , while 74 persons sustained injury. This is quite worrisome.One method of examining the effectiveness of the agencies established by the government to curb building collapse incidents is the ratio of post construction collapse to collapse during construction. In Lagos State, for instance, the ratio is 59 to 41, that is 59 per, cent of the collapsed buildings in 2019 were existing buildings while 41 per cent of the buildings that collapsed in the same year were under construction.

In Anambra State, 67 per cent of the buildings that collapsed in 2019 were existing buildings while those under construction were 33 per cent.
Interestingly, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja did not record any notable collapsed building in 2019 unlike the previous year.


Can that be interpreted to mean an improved monitoring system of the Department of Development Control in Abuja? Or could it be a decline in the monitoring system of the Lagos State Building Control Agency?
When the rate of collapsed buildings under construction is high in a state, the performance of the building control agency in that state becomes questionable.It is also pertinent to establish how many of such buildings that collapsed under construction obtained building plan approval. If a building that was subjected to thorough approval process collapsed under construction, the architect and structural engineer that carried out the designs might not be culpable. The building production process on site arouses suspicions and likely to be the source of the problem.
Limitations of site monitoring by government officials are that they cannot be on site perpetually to monitor the quality of work. The onus of ensuring that the right thing is done on site actually rests on the professional builder, who has undergone training for that purpose. If this principle of putting the round peg in the round hole were adopted, there would be fewer crises in the construction sector.

A system that is aimed at getting result should not limit itself to vetting the professionals that design buildings, it must extend the due diligence to ensuring that those who would construct the buildings that have been given plan approval are competent to do so.Lagos State Government, now realise the advantage of extending the building approval process to site, and has just stipulated in its new building regulations that professional builders should manage building production on sites in Lagos State. That means the responsibility of successful delivery of quality buildings has been hinged on the professional builder as necessitated by the training and statutory role that are stipulated in the Builders’ Act BF13 LFN 2004, formerly Decree 45 of 1989.

With this development, the burden, risk and blame on building control monitoring officials would be lessened since there are professionals, who are now permanently on building sites to ensure standard construction. The role of the government officials on building control will now concentrate more on ensuring that there are builders on sites who will liaise with while ascertaining that building construction conforms to the approved building plan. By the time other states in the federation adopt this method, there is bound to be a holistic reduction in the collapse of buildings under construction.

Moreover, such newly constructed building would stand the test of time.Structural integrity tests and other early warning systems can help reduce the danger of defective old buildings that can be demolished once identified.It is pertinent to mention that the physical planning law in Lagos and Abuja, for instance, proclaim confiscation of the land of collapsed building as punitive measure. However, this law encourages offenders to conceal information on collapsed buildings.

Inadequacy of skilled artisans in the industry hasn’t been resolved over time. How can Nigeria reduce the skill gap and promote competitiveness in the housing Sector of the country?
Education tailored towards white-collar job relegates craftsmanship in real estate sector. Studying the precision and accuracy, for instances of the Baptist Church Chapel at Idi-Araba, Abeokuta recently, the building provides an evidence that skilled building artisans once existed in Nigeria.

Equal risers and goings combined with the straightness of the edges of the multiple steps that led to the foyer would make one disagree with the impression that many of the construction work in Nigeria were replete with errors.That Church building in Abeokuta, Da Rocha or water house on the Lagos Island and Other magnificently sculptured old buildings are a revelation of the high level of craftsmanship in the past. However, the declivity suffered by technical education accounts for the skill gap that we have been making series of efforts to overcome.

Dexterity in the construction work that would enhance the aesthetics of a building is not the sole responsibility of building artisans. Training in building technology equips the builder on site with knowledge of geometry and technical engineering drawing that create functional intersections that are also pleasing to the eye. When the artisans are skillful and the builders are technically sound, the outcome of the building construction will be satisfactory in the expert assessment.

Dearth of data still remains a serious challenge in housing sector. How do you think stakeholders could find a lasting solution to this?
Sourcing for data has been a big hurdle in Nigeria generally. Most data being branded around are based on assumption. In a ration where demography is based on inaccurate exercise, provision replaces exactness for many years. 17 million deficits in the Nigerian housing sector have remained constant in the face of variables. The parameters used to obtain that figure 17 million is not known to stakeholders in the housing sector. Government and the private developers have constructed several estates since the time the 17 million deficit was first declared. Or could it be raising demand on the growing population that has made the figure remain stable? Incertitude.

The fact that the business of the real estate development is not regulated in Nigeria has made it difficult to know the number of housing units being constructed yearly. Moreover, many of the estates do not declare the total number of buildings to be constructed before obtaining building plan approval because of the assessment charges.

Stakeholders need to come together and device a reliable system for data collection. Enumeration of existing buildings needs to be carried out regularly. The numbers of occupied and unoccupied buildings must be established. Then we should derive the factor that could resolve the contradiction of housing deficit in a state where the number of unoccupied buildings is alarming. The equation must consider the indices of demand and the purchasing power. A national census devoid of insincerity could help resolve several data challenges that render planning and forecast ineffective in the Nigerian housing sector.

In the housing industry, innovations and technology have become the norm, which aspects of these technology do you think Nigeria needs to improve its housing developments?
The Nigerian construction industry is slow to adopt innovative approaches in its operations. There is the need for builders to familiarise themselves with latest global trend in the construction industry and upgrade their operations technologically in order to increase speed and productivity while reducing cost and wastage.

Some of the significant innovations used in developed countries that are also advised for Nigeria include, a drone, also known, as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which is simply an aircraft that flies without a pilot. It is controlled remotely. This device started out as a weapon carrier decades ago during the world war era. They have evolved over time into varying sizes and also now adapted for consumer and commercial uses. The application of drones to building production is endless. This can be attributed to the fact that drones can serve two broad categories of functions.

A typical drone most often comprises of rotating blades or fixed wings and a camera. This primary feature has diverse applications in construction; first to mind is site inspection or surveillance. For instance in a road construction project, a road could extend for kilometers with workers carrying out several tasks at different points. The supervising building professional can simply stay in his office and send out the drone to video the works in progress and the drone in turn sends him a life feed on a screen, which he uses to monitor the ongoing works. This way, the Builder gets to be more productive and saves the cost of driving to and fro to monitor the works in progress. It could also be used for inspection of high-rise buildings, for security surveillance on site, amongst others.

Asides the performance of its traditional functions, a drone can also act as a medium through which other activities get performed. A host of add-ons can be incorporated into the drone to create new capabilities. For example, drones are now being used for mapping, carrying out topographic surveys, for setting out, for lifting blocks and bricks to upper floors, concrete casting, and measurement, amongst others. Despite this numerous adaptations of drones, there exist a whole lot of untapped possibilities and with each passing day, more are being realised. Talking about the 3D printing, it has roots in the manufacturing industry where it was used to create prototypes of mechanical components.

Today its adoption is continuously attaining a disruptive status. With its use now in photography, fashion, education, automobiles entertainment and very recently, construction, it is successfully spreading its tentacles into major economic sectors and leaving positive landmarks. The first application of 3D printing in building production occurred in 2006 by Dr. Behrokh Khoshenevis of University of South Carolina. Since then, there has been an unspoken competition among several companies trying to prove the efficacy of the procedure in building construction. Till date 3D printing has been used for a canal house in Amsterdam, a steel bridge in Amsterdam, shelter for disaster relief in United States of America, a concrete mansion in China, 10 houses in 24hrs in China, amongst others. The application of this building technique has proven to reduce waste, saves cost & time and increases productivity on site. With new improvements and upgrade of the technology, it is not long before global construction companies shift focus into the 3D printing construction trend en masse.

Most importantly if properly implemented, this construction technique can be used to solve the 17 Million housing deficit in Nigeria. Due to the manual process of wall plastering on construction sites, there is a huge demand for labour, hence, increased labour cost which would lead to higher project cost. The traditional plastering method is a composite process starting with the mixing of plaster and the actual placement. The traditional application of the mixed plaster on the wall is a very rigorous task and could be made more complicated if the surface on which it is to be applied is uneven. The introduction of the automatic plastering machine reduces the complexity in this task by almost 40 percent. To use the machine, it is placed in front of the surface to be plastered, anchored and plumbed to attain an accurate angle. After that, the machine is fed with mortar and started. It simple rises above the ground in one sweep and returns down in the second sweep and that’s all. It uses a rod to ensure smooth consistency of the surface and can complete about 57 square meters in an hour. This machine increases the speed of the plastering task, saves cost and increases productivity.

Also, for or decades, the traditional measuring tape has been the undisputed method of measurement on site. With the adoption of technology, this manual and rigorous method can now be avoided. A laser measurement meter works by sending a laser light to the target, which measures the time, it takes for the reflection to return. This device comes in different variants with some able to measure just linear functions and others used for area and cubic measurements all in one stance. This would save a lot of time and increase productivity on site.

We equally need the modular construction technologies. These are sectional prefabricated buildings or structures that consist of multiple sections called modules. These modules are constructed in the factory under strict quality standard and transported to the intended site. On getting to site, these prefabricated sections or modules are lifted and anchored into place using cranes. It can be likened to a game of Lego but in this case, the modules were created according to an architectural design. On completion, most often than not, these structures tend to look like any other structure and in some cases, even better. Such technique reduces wastage on site and increases the speed of the construction process.


Our housing sector, needs the use of robots in manufacturing has now expanded to construction. Apart from the use of robots in the production of construction materials, they are now being used to supplement the workforce involved in the actual construction. Several commercial companies are gradually entering the construction robots space with the goal to make construction safer, cheaper, faster and even more creative.
Additionally, we should invest in road paving machine created to displace the rigorous task of squatting or kneeling down to place paving stones into the ground by hand. The machine comprises of a bucket into which paving stones are heaped and organised by workers. The machine simply spreads out perfectly uniform sheet of paving stones unto the road or compound. It can be likened to laying a carpet on the road.

The nail gun, a type of tool used to drive nails into wood or some other kind of material should be deployed in the sector. What it does is that it launches nails at a high speed and saves hours of toil and sweat, taking almost all the work out of nailing is needed for the Nigerian real estate. There are different types depending on factors like nature of job, how they are powered, amongst others. The common ones are powered by compressed air, gas pressure and electric motor. The first nail gun was created in 1950 and had the capacity to house 400-600 nails at once and could nail from 40 to 60 nails per minute minute. This tool ensures speed, is less risky and gives a neat finish.

Nigerian built sector must also adopt is a flexible concrete impregnated fabric technology that hardens on hydration to form a thin, durable waterproof and fire resistant concrete layer. Unlike regular concrete, it can be installed in the rain and other wet conditions. It virtually eliminates rescheduling due to weather conditions. It has a wide range of applications throughout the construction industry comprising ditch lining, slope protection, pipeline protection, shelters, amongst others.


In this article:
Kunle AwoboduNIOB
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