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‘Housing sector needs rebates, incentives to provide homes’

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Mrs. Adebolanle Araba is the Chairman, College of Fellows, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB). He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on technological changes taking place in the construction industry, challenges of higher taxes, how builders are enforcing ethical standards and encouraging more women participation in the profession.

With the dynamism of the construction industry, the deployment of Building Information Modelling System (BIM) has become an invaluable asset. What do you think will be the impact of such innovation in the real estate sector?
Well traditionally, designs and construction of buildings have been separated and often done by various parties at different points in time. Building project delivery from design to construction by its very nature has a lot of parties and participants making their contributions. However, one major challenge with the traditional method is that all the parties do not see the whole picture and how their part contributes to the whole, right from the onset of the design and planning stages.

BIM is a digital approach to overcome this limitation. BIM generates model or in simple terms what can be termed a digital miniature or representation of the building as if it had been constructed. BIM also gives participants the implications of changes to any part of the design, on other parameters such as time, cost, energy efficiency etc. For example, on a very large project, series of drawings can be produced in batches.

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Some of the designs may have changes superseding earlier ones. In the non-BIM regime, other parties will have to individually adjust for the effect of those changes on say the cost and the time among others. This could be tedious and could even be mistakenly omitted.

However, with BIM platform, the effect of changes in one part of the designs or drawings will be automatically reflected in other parameters. In essence, BIM is a shared platform of understanding and information sharing on the project even up to the end of the useful life of the building. The Nigerian building industry cannot shy away from this innovation

There was outrage over the new stamp duty in Nigerian real estate sector. What is your take on the new tax policy?
The outrage should be expected. The real estate sector has the potentials to reinvigorate our economy, if proper policies are put in place. The earlier our policy makers realised and tap the potentials of real estate, the better.

The bigger and better picture is not to be imposing more taxes on tenants, making the landlords culpable for default. The better picture is to study the entire real estate ecosystem and see how it can be used to jumpstart the economy. You may even be surprised that the housing sector, even needs rebates and incentives to be able to achieve the goal of housing our teeming population.

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The number of women in the built environment profession is dismally low, what are the challenges and how is the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) encouraging more women participation in the profession?
I will answer your questions from two perspectives: the general one of the built environment professions and the specific perspective of the building profession. The built environment professions and by extension the building profession, have been traditionally dominated by males. Culture and beliefs play a part in this development.

However, while I don’t have the official statistics, I think there is improvement in female enrollment in the professions over the years. Let me be specific now. With respect to building profession, there is the realisation that both brain and brawn are needed. This translates to mental efforts and physical action.

A female builder or any builder can carve a niche for herself in any or all of the areas of professional services. She can choose to engage in construction planning which is more of mental efforts and involves a wide range of outputs. She can be involved in the actual construction and production management. She can do this as a consultancy service to clients or render them in contracting organisations.
There is enough room in rendering of professional services in building, irrespective of gender or physiological inclinations. Meanwhile, over the years we have been engaging in sensitation campaigns.

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They have been yielding fruits. Women are gradually coming up the ladder of building profession as NIOB has put in place a career tour programme of “Catch them young” targeted at senior secondary school students in order to expose, educate and encourage them in choosing their career. Conscious focus is also placed on gender sensitivity in these awareness programmes. We equally showcase successful older women in the profession as a source of encouragement to the young potential builders

Attaining sufficiency in skilled artisans in the housing sector has not been resolved over time. How can Nigeria bridge the gap and promote competitiveness internationally?
This should be an issue of concern for us all. The housing gap versus the quantity and quality of artisanal skills available. Well, for quality, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Nigerian National Skills Qualification Framework seeks to address this.

For the building construction sector, NIOB is collaborating with the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to change the narrative of availability of quality and internationally competitive Nigerian artisans. Such issues of quality, occupational standards are being addressed in the training provided for the intending artisans or artisans that are being up-skilled.

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There are concerns on the issue of adherence to professional ethics in the building industry. How are you enforcing ethical standards in NIOB and what needs to be done in ensuring that professionals don’t breach the code of their trade?
Ethics is the moral life wire of any organisation. Technical expertise without a moral compass to protect one self, the profession and society is a minus and threat to good order. In the NIOB, ethics is taken seriously. Our members are taught about their duties to themselves, the profession and the society. In the discharge of his obligation to his client, diligence, skill, confidentiality and honesty are attributes he must display.

He should conform to guidelines for minimum standard of ethical behaviour while relating with other professionals in the built environment, other stakeholders on the project and the general public. Additionally, there are provisions in the NIOB constitution for dealing with ethical violations. Even at the level of the regulatory body, CORBON law, among other provisions, allows for tribunals to try erring builders. This provision gives protection for the society and brings predictability in disciplinary processes.
Some members of NIOB and other professionals have expressed concerns on non-patronage of Nigerian professional builders by the government.

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Do you think your members are qualified for these jobs? How has this affected the profession? Is there solution in sight for indigenous professionals?
Qualified for the jobs? Which jobs? I think it is denigrating to my nationality as a Nigerian to ask whether a builder that has undergone rigorous academic training and is licenced by CORBON is qualified for the jobs. It is akin to asking whether Nigerian doctors and lawyers and other professionals are qualified to practise their professions. The question Nigerians should be asking is: are these jobs available for the builders? It is when our policy makers want to sacrifice national interest for other interests that they hide under the alibi of whether Nigerians are qualified or not.

Good enough, however, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has signed executive orders on local content. I read it in newspaper that he did the virtual commissioning of the Nigerian Content Monitoring Development Board building designed just some days ago.

It is worthwhile to read that the building is an output of our indigenous professional manpower. This is not surprising: Nigerians are excelling outside even in our fields. Give them the right environment and you will be impressed. In practical terms, in public procurement as well as in private, advertise or require in line with the law for entities to construct buildings to be those licenced by CORBON. This will be the practical beginning of bringing sanity and order to building project delivery in Nigeria.

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In this article:
Adebolanle ArabaNIOB
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