Thursday, 3 November 2016

You Don't Have To Live in a Smart City To Live Smart -Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

Since signing an agreement with the City of Dubai by the Lagos State Government in June, 2016 on the development of the Lagos Smart City, many people have been wondering what a smart city would look like. 

Ironically Lagos itself is believed to be one heck of a smart city where only the ‘smart ones’ survive –you have to be smart to get on a bus and even when you are on a BRT queue as we have it today, you could still be outsmarted by a crafty lone ranger in a split of a second; On top of that you have to be pretty smart to earn a decent living in this ever-buzzing city; Other times you have to turn your gear to smart if you must beat the crazy traffic in the shortest possible time, else you spend long hours ‘snailing’ down the road with puckered brow and lest you forget, you have to be extremely smart to find your way around without getting lost. But Smart homes/cities are not restricted to Lagos alone. So what then makes a smart city in an already ‘smart’ city an interesting concept?

Here is why. The smart city concept is one that thrives on intelligence, sophistication and automation. It’s not the typical hustle and bustle kind of ‘smart’ some of us are already used to. It’s smartness with ease, flexibility and simplicity. 

With the magic of a small device on your hand, your building is almost entirely under your control even when you are nowhere near. Perhaps the only thing you still may not be able to do is to physically move the house to your friend’s place. 

Simply put, Smart City consists of Smart buildings and Smart infrastructure. Smart homes/offices used to be the exclusive privilege of those in the top echelon of the society but as it is now, there is something for the low and middle class.

Technology is for the benefit of everyone, irrespective of class, gender and race. In fact technology may be threatened with extinction if it is only restricted to a set of people. By building smart cities, the options are opened to people of all status to have a stake, even if it’s just as little. 

A square-Metre of space in a smart home/city is generally safer and comfortable to live in than 1001 square-Metre of space in a dull or boorish home/city.

 Are you pondering what I am pondering? Apart from the automation side of smart homes, they are often very elegant, exquisitely finished and customized to suit individual preferences of taste and lifestyle.

Never mind, I perceive you are thinking about power issues. In a country where public power supply continues to make a false of people’s high hopes, I very well understand your fears. But come to think of it, you would be surprised that for smart home concepts, even power respects technology. 

Smart home devices are often designed as low-power consumers and can be powered by off-grid solutions. Most of these devices can power themselves by relying on simple solar radiations.

In a typical smart home, with a press of a set of buttons or clicks on wi-fi enabled hand-held or virtual remotes respectively, you control all windows and doors within the building, including opening and closing of the gate and skylights in the roof from virtually any location. 

Users can also monitor and control activities within the house on their mobile devices; making it easier for working class parent to keep tab on their kids at home while they are away. Smart homes can be customized to recognize the occupiers of a building and their pets and automatically allow them gain access at any time while denying access to strangers and even blowing an alarm when there is an intruder. 

Smart building can welcome you in with your favorite song playing in background mood and bid you goodbye by responding with a go-come tune. The heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system can be automatically adjusted to suit your desired temperatures and humidity levels using the same simple device. It can help control taps, switches and security alarm system; you can turn the entire space to night mode at night and even switch off all devices when you are away.  

So don’t wait till the Smart City is fully built. Go smart already. 

Cutting Cost and Cutting Corners: The Point Where Cutting Goes Wrong - Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

Cutting action is a normal part of the construction process. You’ve got to cut something at some point before a project gets to completion stage. From the design stages, you cut lines and shape in drawings to fit. At the costing stage, attempts are often made to cut down rates. On site, if you are not cutting a hot-rolled steel bar with a hack saw to achieve the required length, then you would be cutting timber (i.e. wood) to size with a hand saw. 

If formwork is off the program of work for the day, then you may have to cut blocks into three-quarter or half-size with a trowel to fit into walls or cut concrete with a diamond cutter to create some allowances. 

Other times, you may have to cut a covering or finishing material and so on. In fact the cutting action is so relevant that if it is not properly done, it can cause poor condition of work leading to avoidable delay, wastage and rework.  

But there are other forms of cutting that may not involve the use of typical construction tools; these are the acts of cutting corners and cutting costs. It is important to stress here that either of the two or a combination of both in a very ill-manner has been largely established as part of the factors responsible for the prevalent rate of building collapse across the country and elsewhere.    

Cutting Cost: Care must be taken in reducing
estimated cost of construction
It’s too early to raise your eyebrow. It’s cool to cut cost but you must do it in a manner that does not jeopardize the quality of materials and workmanship. 

You don’t expect a good work when a contract is underpriced. I haven’t seen a ‘not-for-profit’ building contractor in a long while or perhaps, never at anytime. I think it is safe to say nearly all contractors are in the construction business to make profit. 

If this is true, there is therefore a high tendency that handling a project without getting the desired or appropriate profit scale may promote temptation for project handlers to cut corners. In-house research has shown clearly that the act of cutting cost has a bearing on the tendency to cut corner and vice versa. 

But there are some contractors that cut corners even when the project is grossly over-priced and this is rather unfortunate. Here is something you can easily relate with; as the project owner tries to cut cost of construction so do the contractor also try to cut cost of implementation and when two greedy cutters meet, something gets badly cut. That 'thing' is often the physical project.     

As an advocate for reduced cost of construction to ensure that the largely excluded low-income class live and work in decent spaces or environments, I equally do not agree that low cost of construction should mean poor quality of work. There must be an excellent balance and that’s where project owners and construction professionals need to be fair enough at least for the sake of the project and future users. 

For instance, as it is today, it is impracticable to expect a decent 4-bedroom bungalow (all room en-suite) to be completed with 2 Million Naira using Sandcrete blocks as the parent wall material. But if an open bid is done right away for the said project type with such an amount as the contract sum, some con-artists parading themselves as contractors would jump at it –promising sky and skylines. But mind you two weeks into the project, the successful bidder is likely to top your ‘list of wanted persons’; absconding with project funds and sometimes construction materials as has been established in known cases and reports.

Cutting corners during construction is not only professional wrong; it is also a criminal offence punishable by law in several climes. Any contractor or professional or project owner caught doing such should be reported to the appropriate authorities for sanctioning.

There is really nothing wrong in minimizing or cutting cost of construction but ‘over-cutting cost’ may breed the act of cutting corner and then regrets. It’s a caveat to both parties!

Faster, Cheaper and Efficient: Constructing Concrete Lintels and Archs With ‘Exo-Reinforcement’ -Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

Lintel beams provides structural support to the portion of the structure directly above them, (usually a wall) as well as aid the reduction of impact and stresses emanating from the use of the underlying member or components which are often doors and windows. 

Some archs also serve the same purposes while others are designed as ‘stand alone’.  The word ‘Exo-reinforcement‘ coined from the words ‘Exoskeleton’ and ‘Reinforcement’ is used here to describe the concept of introducing reinforcement to the external part of a concrete member instead of placing the reinforcing material internally. 
This is probably the first time this word is being used in public research space but the idea has spanned through ages. Essentially, exo-reinforced concrete saves construction time, money and also meets currently acceptable functional requirements for such member.

Mr Bode Araba (EPDM, Nigeria)
Mr. Bode Araba, Chief Executive at EPDM Nigeria, a research, training and project management firm based in Lagos has been visible in the corridor of promoting advancement in new or existing alternative methods of time-effective construction, which includes the use of variants of pre-cast exo-reinforced concrete building elements on a couple of successfully delivered projects that were directly under his watch. The method hasn’t gained prominence perhaps because most indigenous professionals are not receptive to changes or are simply skeptical about trying out new things.

Exo-reinforced concrete lintel beams like the regular types can come in precast or cast in-situ forms but it’s benefits are maximized when built pre-cast. Exo-reinforced archs are often cast in-situ because of their size and relative density but on sites where hoists and cranes are present, it’s okay for them to come pre-cast. 

To construct a pre-cast exo-reinforced concrete lintel beam, a sheet of anti-rust metal of about 6mm thickness and good strength is folded into a form of cuboid initially opened at both ends that fits perfectly into the provided space and level (taking the required span with adequate projections on both sides). 

This process can be done at the point of purchase of the metal or on site. A stopper (e.g. Polythene material) is then introduced at both open ends to stop any flow out. 

Concrete of adequate mix is poured into the fold and allowed to set for some hours. The stoppers are then removed to allow air into the concrete while the top leaves of the fold are welded together to hold firm. 

Once the exo-reinforced concrete lintel has gained sufficient strength, it is lifted and mounted to fit into the space provided. The same process applies to the construction of exo-reinforced archs except that the folding is done meticulously to take the required arch shape. 

On small sites, the lifting process can be done manually by means of thick ropes or by simply getting two laborers to lift it from both ends. These processes altogether can be completed for several numbers of lintel beams in a matter of hours saving the constructor the cost and time of installing and detaching timber or steel formworks and other associated works. 

After placement, a layer of mortar is introduced to the top of the member to receive the blockwall to be constructed over it. In the end, the member can be rendered (or plastered) along with the blockwall.

The same principle that works for regular reinforced concrete also applies to the exo-reinforced type, tension is resisted by the folded metal along its length while compression is resisted by the concrete within. 

Although from the structural engineering point of view, the way and manner at which the member provide resistance to stresses (in terms of shear force and the attendant bending moments) acting on it are slightly different. However it is still very safe to use exo-reinforced concrete for archs and beams provided you know what you are doing!