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The Roles of Architects in Preventing Building Collapse in Nigeria

Preventing building collapse

Building collapse has become a significant issue in Nigeria, leading to loss of lives, property, and economic resources. They often attribute the collapse of buildings to poor design, substandard construction materials, inadequate supervision during construction, and violation of building codes and regulations. As key professionals involved in the design and construction process, architects play a crucial role in preventing a building collapse in Nigeria. 

The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) is a professional organization that represents architects in Nigeria dedicated to promoting excellence in the architectural profession. The NIA has taken several steps to address ‌building collapse in Nigeria by tightening up regulations and advocating for higher professional standards among architects. This article aims to investigate the roles of architects in preventing building collapse in Nigeria and shed light on the various building collapses that architects may help prevent.

 

The cause of building collapse

A research was conducted by Oladipo Emmanuel Odunola, 2Dr. Arc. (Mrs.) Titilayo Anifowose 1,2 Department of Architecture, Bells University of Technology, Ōta, Ogun State Nigeria, to explore the roles of architects in preventing building collapse in Nigeria by examining their responsibilities in the design, construction, and supervision stages, as well as their involvement in building codes and regulations. 

According to this research, between 1974 and July 2021, over 461 structures were destroyed in Nigeria, resulting in over 1,090 confirmed fatalities and many injuries. During this period, Lagos recorded over 295 cases, while Abuja, Oyo, Anambra, Kano, Ondo, Delta, Enugu, Plateau, Kaduna, Edo, Imo, Osun, Benue, Adamawa, and Ebonyi each reported 3 or more cases. Niger, Kebbi, Ekiti, Cross River, Sokoto, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Kogi, and Katsina had two

 

representatives each, based on data from the Premium Times in 2022. These issues, however, point to systemic problems in the construction industry in Nigeria, and it is imperative to understand the roles of architects in preventing building collapse and addressing these issues.

To achieve its objectives, the study collected data using a self-developed questionnaire distributed to 50 respondents who are architects practicing in Lagos, Nigeria. They analyzed the data using frequency analysis and percentages. The findings of the study revealed that quackery (unqualified individuals practicing as architects), different soil, remodeling of buildings, inadequate briefing, and natural repercussions are some causes of building collapse in Nigeria.

  • Quackery (Unqualified Individuals Practicing as Architects):

Quackery, where unqualified individuals pose as architects and are involved in the design and construction of buildings without the proper training, certification, or experience, causes many building collapses in Nigeria. These quacks often lack the technical expertise to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed to meet safety standards, resulting in poor construction practices, substandard materials, and structural deficiencies that can lead to building collapses.

  • Different Soil Types:

Nigeria has diverse soil types, ranging from laterite to clay and sandy soils, each with their unique properties. Failure to conduct proper soil investigation and analysis before construction can cause buildings being constructed on unstable or weak soils, which can lead to settlement, subsidence, or soil erosion, ultimately resulting in building collapse.

  • Remodeling of Buildings:

Many buildings in Nigeria are remodeled or renovated without proper engineering analysis or structural evaluation. Alterations, additions, or modifications to the original design and structure of a building without professional input can compromise the integrity of the building and lead to structural failures and collapses.

  • Inadequate Briefing:

Poor communication and inadequate briefing between clients, architects, engineers, and contractors can cause misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and omissions in the construction process, leading to building collapse. Inadequate briefing may cause incorrect design assumptions, improper material usage, and inadequate construction techniques, all of which can contribute to the failure of a building.

  • Natural Repercussions:

Nigeria is prone to natural disasters such as flooding, erosion, and earthquakes, which can impact the stability of buildings. Failure to consider these natural repercussions during the design and construction phase can cause buildings that are not resilient to these hazards, leading to building collapses when these events occur.

The Roles of Architects in Preventing Building Collapse 

One of the key findings of the study is that architects must be involved in all stages of the construction process to help prevent building collapse. This includes the conceptualization and design stage, where architects can ensure that proper structural designs are in place, materials are of the required standard, and they conduct soil tests to determine the suitability of the foundation. Architects can also play a crucial role during the construction stage by providing proper supervision and monitoring to ensure that they carry construction activities out under the approved plans and specifications.

Design Stage:

The design stage is a critical phase in the construction process, where architects ensure they design the building to meet safety standards and structural integrity. Architects prepare the design and construction documents, including architectural drawings, specifications, and details, which are used by contractors for construction. In Nigeria, architects are required to follow the National Building Code, which sets the minimum standards for building design and construction. Architects must ensure that they design the building to withstand the local environmental conditions, including wind, rain, and seismic loads, and that it appropriately proportioned the structure to prevent structural failure.

Architects also play a role in the selection of construction materials during the design stage. They specify materials that meet the relevant standards, are durable, and have the required strength and quality. Architects should avoid specifying substandard materials that may compromise the structural integrity of the building. Architects must ensure that the design includes proper foundation design, structural framing, and connections to prevent building collapse because of structural failure.

 

Construction Stage:

During the construction stage, architects supervise the construction process to ensure that the building is being constructed under the approved design and specifications. Architects should conduct periodic site visits to monitor the progress of the construction, review the quality of materials being used, and verify that construction is being carried out in compliance with the approved design and building codes .  

Architects should also work closely with other professionals, such as structural engineers and quantity surveyors, to ensure that the construction is progressing as planned. They should provide timely instructions to the contractor and document any changes or modifications to the structure design.

Supervision is crucial in preventing a building collapse in Nigeria, as it helps to detect and rectify construction defects, such as poor workmanship, inadequate reinforcement, and the use of substandard materials. Architects must identify and address construction issues that may compromise the safety and stability of the building.

 

Building Codes and Regulations:

Architects in Nigeria are required to comply with the National Building Code, which provides guidelines for the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings in the country. Architects should be familiar with the code and ensure that their designs and construction practices adhere to its requirements. The code includes provisions for structural design, fire safety, ventilation, sanitation, and accessibility, among others, to ensure that buildings are safe and habitable.

Architects also have a responsibility for promoting the adoption and enforcement of building codes and regulations. They should collaborate with relevant government agencies, professional bodies, and other stakeholders to advocate for the adoption of updated and comprehensive building codes that reflect current best practices and technological advancements in the construction industry. Architects should also take part in the development of building regulations and guidelines, as well as in the review and approval of building plans to ensure that buildings are designed and constructed to meet safety standards.

Education and Professional Development:

Architects in Nigeria have a responsibility to update their knowledge and skills to stay abreast of best practices and technological advancements in the construction industry. They should take part in professional development programs, workshops, seminars, and other relevant training opportunities to enhance their expertise and ensure that their designs and construction methods align with current industry standards. This includes staying informed about changes in building codes, regulations, and emerging technologies that can improve the safety and integrity of buildings.

Architects should also prioritize conducting thorough site investigations and soil analysis to understand the unique soil conditions and environmental factors of a construction site, and incorporate design and construction measures to mitigate risks associated with different soil types.

In addition, architects should always engage in effective communication and briefing with clients, engineers, contractors, and other stakeholders to ensure that project requirements, design specifications, and construction details are clearly understood and implemented correctly.

Architects should advocate for and adhere to ethical and professional standards in their practice, including avoiding involvement in quackery or working with unqualified individuals. They should uphold the principles of integrity, competence, and accountability to ensure that the buildings they design are safe, durable, and compliant with relevant regulations.

Continuous professional development, engagement in relevant training programs, adherence to ethical standards, and effective communication are essential responsibilities of architects in Nigeria to prevent building collapses and promote sustainable construction practices that prioritize safety and quality in the built environment.

In conclusion, building collapse has become a frequent occurrence in Nigeria, with Lagos being the primary location. Human error-related causes such as quackery, inadequate briefing, poor supervision, and the use of substandard materials are major factors contributing to this issue. The Nigerian Institute of Architects has taken steps to address this problem by tightening regulations and promoting higher professional standards among architects. The findings of this study emphasize the importance of architects’ roles in preventing building collapse, including their involvement in all stages of the construction process, advocating for the use of qualified professionals, and enforcing building regulations. Further research is recommended to address the specific challenges in different regions of Nigeria. It is imperative to prioritize quality and safety in the construction industry to prevent the loss of life, property, and the negative impact on the environment caused by building collapses in Nigeria.

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