Wednesday, 30 November 2016

After The Collapse Comes The ‘Wahala’ -Engr. Osaz' Enobakhare

If you think handling a building project comes with a lot of stress then you had better do anything technically possible to avoid a collapse. 

In the incidence of a building collapse, attaining a new psychological stress levels that usually make a mess of the profit derived from the project is almost inevitable, especially when death is involved. Worries, negative anxieties, long haul of litigation, trauma and everything in between are some of the effects. 

But hardly do building collapse just happen, in the same way there is hardly any smoke without a fire. Such incidences can be largely avoided in a country where natural disasters that cause buildings to fail rarely occur, but that is not to say that it is totally impossible even where technical inputs were employed at reasonable levels; just like not all road accidents actually emanated from the driver’s error. 
With no fewer than twenty cases of building collapse reported in the country between 2014 and 2015, claiming at least 150 lives, there is common sense in paying attention to quality control of building works, especially for single and multi-storey buildings. The usual ‘it doesn’t matter you can do it this way’, ‘once it’s standing, then it is strong’ or ‘this is how we normally do it’ shouldn’t be the practice anymore.   

The role of the structural engineer again comes to mind because most cases have been attributed to structural failure. Just recently my firm (HEAVENS) rejected an offer to produce a structural design for a client with respect to a proposed multi-storey commercial development in Lekki, Lagos for the main reason that the client was not willing to conduct a soil investigation but probably expects us to use assumed figures to compute the foundation analysis. 

Completing a structural design which should contain foundation drawings and specs without relying on a recent and accurate soil test report is ‘practice makes worst’. Until practitioners begin to stamp their foot on promoting good practices and project owners insist on engaging trusted professionals only, building collapse would only continue to appear normal. 

Construction Workers being rescued alive from a
collapsed building under construction
Considering a building, highway or infrastructure project more as a product than just a service like some of us now do may help other practitioners perform better. For instance, you don’t have to tell a processed food manufacturer whose label appears on a food product to be sold in the open market to take the issue of hygiene and food poisoning very seriously. He or she surely knows the amount of damage that food poisoning can do to the brand as well as the attendant financial losses that comes with it. 

Treating building construction just as a service you are hired to render and then you walk away after doing so without taking the future implications of methods, processes and actual work done on site seriously should no longer be the case to avoid pending ‘wahala’.     

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