Why Buildings Collapse
- August 11, 2017
Concrete dust swirled around the entire area, coating the hair and eyelashes of the sympathizers and passersby who trooped to the site of the unfortunate incident.
One hour earlier, this site was the local shopping complex, which stood three stories tall, and in dire need of a fresh coat of paint.
Now, only rubble remained, with shop owners’ goods and property worth millions of naira destroyed. It was a thing of sheer luck that there were no fatalities. The collapse had occurred in the middle of the night.
Sympathizers shook their heads and looked at the shop owners with great pity. The shop owners expressed a variety of emotions, from rage to shock and pure sadness.
Mama Risikatu, who operated a dining ware store within the complex, threw off her headscarf and ran in different directions, despite all attempts to restrain her.
Mrs. Beauty Aliyu would not be consoled. She hurled herself to the ground asking ‘God why?’
Beauty Hair and Fashion Place was no more than a crumbled mess of broken equipment.
A few minutes later, the police, news reporters and Emergency Management Agency officials arrived on the scene. It was going to be a long day.
When a building collapses, there are devastating effects, such as the destruction of property, loss of lives, displacement of persons from their homes, and distortion of activity in the areas where such incidents occur.
Despite ongoing concerns, it would appear that the rate of building collapse in Nigeria is on the rise. Lagos state has been tagged the undesirable capital of building collapse in Nigeria, as several incidents have occurred in the centre of excellence.
The Lekki Gardens and Synagogue Church of All Nations Building collapses among others have generated a lot of reactions on the subject, which brings us to the question-Why do buildings collapse?
Buildings throw in the towel due to wide range of reasons. These include natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes and the like. However, these causes are not usually related to the African experience.
The causes of building collapse are mostly man made, and so, we can say to a large extent, that man is the architect of his own undoing.
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#1. Weak Foundation
One cannot build a house on a shaky foundation.
There are two things to consider in building foundations. The first is the solidity of the soil. The solidity of the soil determines the strength of the foundation, and great care has to be taken in building on weaker soil to avoid building collapse. For instance, the specifications of foundation in a swampy area would be stronger than a region where the soil is hard.
Thus, construction professionals should take this point into consideration to ensure the foundation is properly done in order to ensure long lasting structures and preserve lives and property.
The second point to consider is the heaviness of the building. For instance, a building such as a multi level car park would require a stronger foundation than a simple two bedroom flat designed to accommodate two people, because the weight the building is designed to carry has to be taken into consideration when erecting the foundation.
#2. Design Inadequacies
Another reason buildings fall is as a result of the failure to follow structural designs. Before a building is erected, there are structural plans and designs set up to serve as a guide for building among other reasons. When the plan is not properly followed, it could lead to structural lapses which may ultimately lead to collapse. It is important to follow the structural designs, and make proper adjustments where necessary on paper and when erecting the building.
#3. Poor Workmanship
Construction is more often than not left in the hands of unskilled and incompetent construction personnel. Unskilled labourers are bound to make mistakes in the building process, especially in mixing ratios. These mistakes caused by unskilled workers may lead to a host of problems that may lead to collapse. Invest in trained professionals to give you a long lasting structure, so pay now and reap later.
#4. Wrong Building Use
There are instances the building is used for purposes beyond the original intention. For instance, if the local shopping complex in the scenario above was originally designed to be a three bedroom family bungalow, and subsequently changed to a three story commercial building housing various businesses such as beauty salons, hardware stores and a nightclub, collapse was bound to happen, as the building was carrying a load beyond its original capacity.
#5. Substandard and Counterfeit Building Materials
Substandard and counterfeit materials are the bane of any structure’s existence. The market is full of building materials of different levels of quality, and sometimes it may take a trained eye to spot the difference between original and counterfeit products (See note #3). However, many choose to purchase substandard materials in order to shave building costs, and that saved cost today may lead to a collapsed building in the future. Be wise and buy high quality building materials.
#6. Failure to Enforce Building Regulations
A major problem in the construction sector is that the lack of proper regulation. Some builders erect substandard buildings without proper approval, and where approval is obtained, deviate from the previously approved plan(See note #4).
Government bodies, stakeholders, building and construction professionals have a huge responsibility to regulate the industry by enforcing building codes and regulations, conducting building and soil strength tests, sealing off buildings that are not built according to plan, and cracking down on unqualified construction professionals. This step will improve and regulate the building and construction sector, and lower the rate of building collapses.
Building a house takes time, money, effort. However, failure to do things the right way may lead to the misfortune of any builder- cleaning up the ruins of a house he has taken time, treasure and talent to build. In the light of this, it is important to take the above steps into consideration in order to build structures that are long lasting and do not pose risks to the things and people sheltered within them.