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Soft loans, functional designs will reduce housing cost, says Said

By Victor Gbonegun
19 July 2021   |   3:01 am
Mrs. Adenike Said is the chairperson, Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria (APWBN). In this interview with VICTOR GBONEGUN, she spoke on why states should domesticate national building

Mrs. Adenike Said is the chairperson, Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria (APWBN)

Mrs. Adenike Said is the chairperson, Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria (APWBN). In this interview with VICTOR GBONEGUN, she spoke on why states should domesticate national building code and ways to boost low-cost housing projects using indigenous building materials.
Recently, we have seen a rise in building collapse in construction sites. How is your association responding to this issue and how best can it be addressed?

Building collapse has been a sad menace in Nigeria of which the causes have been identified and solutions are now in place. The self-built syndrome, poor knowledge of construction, substandard materials, lack of knowledge of the terrain, and quest for profit/social benefits are contributory factors to building collapse.

Now, the government has set up necessary machinery to eliminate incessant collapse. Relevant professional bodies are also taking administrative and technological efforts to enlighten and train those in the field.

It’s worthy of note that when the building code is adopted by states, it will curb the menace of building collapse. It is very apt now that the builders’ documents are enshrined in building regulations in states and implemented to stem the pace of collapse in our society.

The programme of work, quality management plan, health, and safety plan, which are all documents, prepared by builders should be monitored for compliance.

The Association of Professional Women builder in Nigeria (APWBN) in collaboration with other professionals in the built environment have been organising seminars to create awareness and stop the collapse of buildings that is ravaging the country.

APWBN is passionate about ensuring that building construction in Nigeria is standardised through regular advocacy. The attention of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has been drawn to the issue of sub-standard building materials in the market.

To avoid dangerous calamity in terms of loss of lives and properties, we have expressed worries about sub-standard reinforcements, planks, and concrete blocks.

Builders should always be engaged in construction sites for management of the construction process and implementation of all stated plans. These are the kind of public awareness we are creating in the association. Any professional and contractors found liable in any collapse should be prosecuted and punished accordingly.

There are worries about housing shortfall, especially in the affordable supply category. What is the best approach to solving the deficit in housing supply and ensure affordability?
The shortfall in housing can be effectively tackled by the government and private recognised developers. However, land and infrastructures have to be provided by the government. Also, soft loans to willing societies and the use of locally sourced materials too are needed.

Building for our needs should be the ultimate and not for socio-aesthetic reasons. Most Nigerians have a high taste but their resources cannot provide housing for them. Having big houses is getting out of fashion hence, functional housing should be designed to reduce the cost of construction and subsequently ease the shortfall in housing stock being experienced now. Functionalism in the building is the doctrine that the form of a building should be determined by practical considerations such as use, material, and structure, as distinct from the attitude that plan and structure must conform to a preconceived picture in the designer’s mind.

I want us to realise that there are no low-cost materials in Nigeria today, except we go back to basics by encouraging researches into local building materials that will be affordable to low-income earners. The Nigerian Institute Building is seriously working on this through its current council led by the President, Mr. Kunle Awobodu.

Today, the cost of building materials is rising, for example, cement and reinforcement are skyrocketing to about N4, 000/ per bag and N500, 000/ per ton respectively.

Government housing policy should be reviewed as soon as possible to address the living conditions of low-income earners. This is due to the fact that the country is over-dependent on imported building materials and foreign exchange is very high.

We should look inwards now in order to mitigate the challenges faced by our ever-increasing population. The Federal Government should utilise the local building materials developed in the past for the ongoing low-cost housing projects in the country. Also, monitoring of the existing buildings is very important to avoid sudden collapse, in order to address some of the major defects and elongate the life span of such buildings.

Despite the volume of buildings being constructed in Nigerian, many trained builders are complaining of unemployment and joblessness. Why is there inadequate involvement of professionals by the government in the real estate sector?
Employment of builders is ongoing all over the country in various establishments but still very low. The reason is not far-fetched; the majority of real estate developers focus on the profitability in housing development rather than the standard and quality of the building products being produced, they are penny-wise pound-foolish.

A building that is expected to last for about 50years, when it is handled by non-professionals may not last up to 20-years before it collapses or there will be an appreciable increase in the yearly maintenance cost thereby reducing the returns on the investment.

There are adequate government policies and laws in place to control building construction in Nigeria but some of the developers believe that they are smarter or higher than constituted authorities in Nigeria and engage quacks.

In accordance with Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning Law, Cap 12. of 2019 with its regulations, no building construction must commence without having builders and other relevant professionals. In fact, other states are emulating Lagos state in this regard. With the awareness now, it is believed that both professional builders and trained vital skills in the building trades will be engaged.

We believe that very soon builders will have more than enough construction works to handle after the current crusade by APWBN and the Nigerian Institute of Building has spread to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Builders should just get prepared with relevant training needs and knowledge that will be required in the 21st century.

There is a dearth of well-trained artisans in the building construction industry in Nigeria to the extent that migrant artisans fill job opportunities. What is your Association of Professional Women builder in Nigeria (APWBN) doing in the training of artisans and tradesmen?
The involvement of the female gender in the construction sector has not been remarkable since time immemorial; globally because it is believed that the building profession is an exclusive area for males. It was not until around the ’70s in the United Kingdom that the involvement of women started. Now the awareness has spread but is still very low in tropical Africa. In Nigeria, the clear involvement started with the education of females in tertiary institutions across the country.

It is true that migrant artisans fill job opportunities in the building sector of Nigeria as a result of the lack of adequate hard and soft skills of our artisans and most youths, these days are conscious of quick money.

Now with the introduction of the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in the school’s curriculum, it has broadened the training of more tradesmen and artisans for the Nigerian construction sector. The development has created an opportunity for APWBN to have different building trades/ specialization where people develop expertise.

This has been yielding results as some of the trained personnel are already in employment with various organizations. The Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria is collaborating with other stakeholders in the training these artisans and ensuring that they are fixed up in construction firms.

Women are not too involved in the industry because the building profession is believed to be very hard and it demands strength to perform. Some women are also of the view that it may affect their home keeping, aspect of marriage, and pregnancy. Additionally, family issues deter women from building careers in the construction industry. For instance, some people are of the opinion that it may lead to having physically challenged or low syndrome babies.

The APWBN has highlighted positive approaches to the effective role of women in the building sector through regular seminars, meetings, visits and awareness. The (catch them young) scheme has been yielding results to promote the core objectives of APWBN. Some of the young students that we visited their schools to groom them, are now in universities studying building technology and hoping to join the fold of building professionals to practice in the nearest future.

How can the government and other stakeholders help women to overcome some of their limiting factors?
The government and stakeholders need to create positive awareness and incentives together with the provision of employment or self-reliance support for women after training them. The trainers also need to form consortiums while they could provide loans for the procurement of necessary tools needed to operate.

Construction organisations can help to resolve some of the myths around construction work by educating the public about the wide range of roles within the organisation.

When people think of construction workers, for instance, they might think of bricklayers/masons and welders but not realising that it equally involves different skill sets of people such as painters, project managers, and quantity surveyors. It is also important to always showcase women working within construction organisations to the public particularly, young people in schools that women are just as capable of having successful careers within the construction Industry as their male counterparts. For instance, in the Nigerian building profession today, we have the likes of Mrs. Abolalanle Araba, Mrs. Aramide Adeyeye, Mrs. Angela Jagun, and Mrs. Folashade Laja among others, who have made their marks in the construction industry. Our Association and Nigerian Institute of Building had celebrated many of such women in the past.

Technology is changing the phase of construction globally. What is APWBN doing to equip members with the latest construction technology and improved methodology despite specialisation in different areas of the building?
Building construction today is beyond brick and mortar hence, the need to update and train women in the latest construction technology. Women builders are encouraged to engage in training in new construction technologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and digital twins, the use of collaborative software solutions, and artificial intelligence.

APWBN members are trained to have their hands on deck to ensure that they are familiar with the builders’ documents software developed by the Council of Registered Builder of Nigeria/NIOB for relevance in the industry.

THE fourth International Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Exhibition will hold in September.

The event with the theme, ‘Appreciating the Unrivalled Excellence and commitment of engineers, builders, and architects to the Nigerian project’, organised by Elan Expo will hold at the Landmark Centre, Lagos.

Speaking on the upcoming event, General Manager, Elan Expo, Mr. Suer AY, said previous Mega Clima Expos were their main references in Nigeria market, which is a profitable market in the West African region for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC+R) sector investments by virtue of its’ large market size and population.

He said the country is also a perfect economic and logistic hub with an Atlantic Ocean port, which made it the right choice for the fourth edition of the exhibition.

According to the organisers, key stakeholders such as government functionaries, captains of industries, engineers, manufacturers and builders, consultants, and architects are expected to grace the event.

This edition of the HVAC and R is connected with the Water and Waste Water Expo, West Africa Ceramica, Nigeria Build Expo, and Nigeria Window Doors and Aluminium Expo.

This year will also feature an award ceremony for engineers that have distinguished themselves in various spheres of life.

The third edition of the International Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Exhibition hosted 86 international participants from 17 countries; Belgium, China, Japan, Egypt, India, Ghana, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, U.A.E., South Korea, Switzerland, USA and Cyprus, 4200 professional visitors with 624 meetings at the B2B programmes, 600 plus attendees and nine certified workshops.