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Domestication of building code is panacea for structural failures, says Majekodunmi

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David Majekodunmi


David Majekodunmi is the Chairman, Lagos State chapter, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). He spoke to BERTRAM NWANNNEKANMA on the National Building Code and its essence in addressing disharmony in the built environment as well as the impact of coronavirus pandemic on architectural practice in the country.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted activities in the built environment. In what ways were architects affected?
The built environment was negatively impacted in many ways, especially in the post-global pandemic because projects are either stalled or slowed down; and of course, we know the adverse effect on the economy.

In the face of the restrictions and new lifestyle, we are looking at innovations and how the professionals can practice more sustainably and become innovative, creative and thereby ensuring we are more futuristic in our approach to the profession. We intend to encourage professionals to adapt to the new norms of anthropology as regards to designing.

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As you know, in the profession, we have the traditional private practice, public service and the academia/educators. Today, we can also add architects in governance/politics. In all the aforementioned occupations, a new way of procedure will be necessary to ensure sustainability of the profession. These are areas the new executive committee is looking into through various committees such as practice committee, education committee, students’ affairs committee and inter-governmental affairs committee. Significant progress had also been made by each of these committees and we will roll out our plans in the near future.

The EndSARS protests nationwide left a sad commentary on infrastructural development. Are there architectural response to such incidence; what role can designs play in checking further occurrence?
After we took over the mantle of leadership in November last year, the new executive committee led volunteers to the affected sites in the state. We came up with recommendations, which had been submitted to the government.

The unfortunate hijack of a peaceful protest that degenerated to such mayhem was unfortunate, portrays the decadence in the society, lack of welfare and untold hardship being faced by the general populace.

Architectural response and roles of design will come into play, if the National Building Code (NBC) can be domesticated, as most of the buildings affected do not meet minimum standards locally and internationally.

Sometimes, there appears to be disagreement between engineers and architects on issues of design and its implementation. How do you attain synergy to minimise the differences?
These differences are rearing their heads simply because we, as professionals, generally fail to practice within the ambits of our enabling laws. There is a lot of encroachment in rendering of services relevant to each professional body, which should not be the case. We recently embarked on educating our members on the NBC. One of the aims is for us to know the roles and responsibilities of each and every member of the construction industry and the ambits within which each professional should operate.

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What is the implication of the upsurge in prices of building materials on the Federal government’s low-cost housing scheme?
The increment in building materials is an unfortunate occurrence, considering the current situation whereby the global pandemic has adversely affected economies negatively. The upsurge in prices of building materials has threatened the general performance in the construction industry, as well as the quality and cost of housing delivery.

The building materials used from the foundation to roofing, finishes and other components such as doors, windows are all impacted. This rapid increase in cost, will invariably degenerate to acute shortage of housing within the millions of low-income families.

There are many factors directly and indirectly responsible for the rising cost of building materials, among which are; changes in government policies and legislation, scarcity of raw materials for manufacturing of building materials and components as well as inadequate infrastructure, variations in the cost of plant and labour, fluctuation in the cost of fuel and power supply, cost of transportation and distribution, seasonal changes, political interference, corruption, multiple taxation (local and Federal), levies and arbitrary charges, increase in interest rates, cost of finance, inflation and fluctuation in the foreign exchange rates.

It is time we started using locally sourced materials. There is also an urgent need to intensify efforts on research on the sustainable local contents as well as the development of local building materials.

Government needs to formulate policies to minimise use of imported building materials, and encourage production of building materials by creating enabling environment for ease production, distribution, sales and use.

Availability of land is one of the major reasons why houses are out of the reach for majority of Nigerians. How could this be addressed?
One of the major problems facing land-use planning and management in Nigeria includes, lack of data on land use, comprehensive and up-to-date plan or map showing land use pattern and structure of ownership in most areas.

Ability to procure land should be made easier, which in turn, will translate to ease of construction of houses on self-help basis, where infrastructural development is fully in place. All tiers of government need to also introduce tax incentives on infrastructure development and stop imposition of levies as well as arbitrary charges on private developers of affordable homes.

The Land Use Act has defied amendment. What approach do you think professionals should adopt to review the act to meet modern-day exigencies?
The Land Use Act vests all land in the territory of each state, solely in care of the Executive Governor, who holds the land in trust for the people and is responsible for allocation of land in all urban areas to individuals for residential, agriculture and commercial purposes.

Professionals in the built environment have the social responsibility to create a better place that will positively affect the society. They also have the role in making an environment civilized and more livable. Built environment professionals should ensure that the masterplan / layout is reviewed every five years, according to global best practice.

Finally, it is imperative as professionals to lobby for and advocate for the amendment with superior argument on the importance and need.

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As concerns over housing deficits mount, what roles should architects play to increase housing stock in the country?
We have seen some efforts from the government that is not sufficient to meet the needs of housing in Lagos State. Schemes such as those under the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (Lagos HOMS) can be reviewed to meet international housing standards that will save construction time and lower cost of purchase to the end users. Government cannot provide housing for all, but they can create enabling environment to assist developers, investors and potential homeowners.

Lagos State is replete with historic buildings, some of which are being replaced on the guise of old age. What roles are architects playing to preserve pre-colonial buildings in Nigeria?
The chapter, under the leadership of the immediate past chairman, Fitzgerald Umah, started working with LEGACY 95 on this matter. We are in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with them so that we can continue working together in this drive for preservation of our historic buildings and heritage sites. We will be looking at publishing such buildings in Lagos State for the education and information of the general public.

Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects was recently polarised. With such scenario, how do you intend to realise your visions for the institute?
Firstly, I will address your terminology of the state’s chapter being polarised. Presently, the chapter is not polarized. Difference of opinions by members of a group does not mean the group is polarised. My vision for the chapter is very clear and undoubtedly to ensure development and people-centred practice. When members see and know that we have their interests as priority, achieving our goals to establish the vision will be easier.

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More so, we will involve all stakeholders as much as we could. Though, we all know that in moving any society forward, while some will move faster, others will move slowly and some may not even move at all. In all cases, we will encourage all to be on the same pace with us to take the chapter, the institute and the profession to a greater height.

The yearly Lagos Architects Forum (LAF) has remained a platform for strong architectural practices and partnerships. What is your plan for the forum this year, as it could not hold last year due to the pandemic?
LAF2020, just like almost all other events, was suspended due to the global shutdown. With the new normal that we are all now getting used to, the chapter is planning towards making LAF2021 a hybrid event. We will have both virtual activities and physical activities. This new way of organising the event will be the first event for us and we are planning to have a successful event that would showcase the architects and our vision for Lagos State in the next 25 years.

This year’s LAF will definitely be one to look forward to as we have carefully selected relevant speakers and encourage the State government, manufacturers, building materials marketers, developers, artisans, and all allied Professionals in the construction industry to be a part of this memorable forum of architecture. Presently, there is a renewed interest by our regular participants – exhibitors, delegates  and speakers – who are all looking forward to our event come May 2021.

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