Structural Integrity Assessment Be Performed On Buildings With More Than 2 Floors.
In this interview with Peter Igbinijesu, President of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, discusses signals to watch for in a distressed building and the need for periodic structural integrity assessments of buildings with more than two floors. He also called on the government to show political will to end building collapses in the environment, narrowing it all on the need to ensure Structural Integrity Assessment Performed On Buildings With More Than 2 Floors.
We are having so much effects of flooding on buildings currently, what do you think?
Most of the drainages are blocked and we are having water weakening the foundation of buildings not properly done. There is a need for infrastructure design and expansion of existing facilities. Government must have the will power to do this.
There is nobody who will allocate land for you to develop when they know from the original master plan that it is going to stand in the way of any infrastructure that will be developed now and in the future. That is the essence of master plan. There are areas earmarked for housing and other purposes, and there are areas earmarked for drainage where all these services will pass through. We should build on the area earmarked for drainage. You know there was one certain time in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) where the master plan was being bastardised, that various ministers were just coming and allocating properties here and there. However, it took the will-power of El-Rufai to tell the people that these things were wrong, and he got the support of the then President Obasanjo to demolish all those structures. So we need people who have the will-power. There is no need for us to be sentimental about this because on the long run, if the disaster happens, we are the one that will be crying. So agencies of the government responsible for all these things should be up and doing. They should monitor building development. I always tell them that if they don’t have enough manpower and capacity, they should engage the services of the professionals in the sector to help them monitor the built environment and various departments on-going. Afterall you are charging most developers fees for planning and building approvals. Such fees can be used to pay the people who can help you monitor all these things. Let us cooperate and bring proper sanity into the environment.
People are canvassing for the environmental audit of all buildings in Lagos State, while those identified distressed structures should be salvaged or demolished. Do you subscribe to this demand?
Government does not have the political will to carry out this, especially at this time when politics of 2023 elections is approaching. Nobody wants to lose any vote, they need the votes of citizens and they will just allow things to remain. This is dangerous. When people know you are doing the right things, people will support you. We don’t need to be sentimental about this; we must have the political will and politics should be put aside because of the fact that safety of lives and properties are paramount.
We have had many building collapse probe panels in the past with a number of people indicted but nothing was done after the submission of the reports/white papers. Are you not worried?
We have seen that after reports of the probe panels were submitted, they were just dumped somewhere. This still goes to show you what we said earlier on, that the political will has to be there for implementations of recommendations of those reports. Look at Ikoyi building collapse where a 21-storey caved in suddenly; they even said the two other existing buildings within the site should come down but look at it, nothing has been done. We also advocated government’s buildings, individuals’ buildings, private buildings and the rest; especially those that are on more than two floors should be subjected periodically to structural integrity assessment.
These buildings have witnessed a lot of conversions from their original usage Many conversions have been introduced and they have been stressed. These structures have experienced a lot of overloading.
Overloading of all these structures for what not they were designed for can cause stress within five to 10 years especially for high rise buildings. So there’s a need carry out structural integrity assessment on these buildings. We don’t need to wait for disasters. I told you about cracks, deflection and settlement (CDS).
Don’t wait for cracks to be visible; don’t wait for it to deflect; and don’t wait for the building to settle to one side before you start saying you want to carry out structural integrity assessment. We just need to be proactive.
Let’s go back to the 21-storey Ikoyi building collapse. Are you not surprised that the other two buildings are still standing having failed integrity tests according to various probe panels or people should wait for the development to continue?
No, we professionals will stand against it, although the development is subjected to litigation. The probe panel had submitted its report, white paper had been released, and from the recommendations and the release of the white paper, those two buildings that are standing there are supposed to come done. We are waiting and watching. Let’s see who will have the boldness to go there and say he wants to continue the development; then we professionals will kick against it.
What are your solutions to building collapse in Nigeria?
There are three stages that are involved in every building. The first stage is the design. In design, I am always advocating that you get the right professionals. Don’t run away because the professional fee is too expensive for you and you now look for those who are not experienced those who are not trained. They will give you something else. Once your design is perfect, you get your approval, and then move to the construction stage. In the construction stage which is the second stage, get professionals who will help you build so that nobody cut corners. Then use the right materials and involve structural engineers because no matter how beautiful a structure is, no matter how elegant, it is the structural engineer who will carry out the necessary analysis and calculations to make sure that the building stands both horizontally and vertically. The last stage is the usage. My solution to building collapse is very straight forward, if it is a new structure get the right professionals and when you are engaging professionals, make sure they are the ones that are well experienced, trained and registered with their relevant professional bodies. Don’t pick someone that says he is a professional from the street and you ask him are you registered? Are you a structural engineer and he say no? Run away from such people because when it happens, you won’t have the means of holding them. And for those that are already built and being occupied, all the tenants and occupants should watch out for the CDS. Watch out for cracks, deflection and tilting. When you notice all these things, raise the alarm. It is difficult now to eliminate building collapse completely but it can be reduced drastically.