Building collapse is a mishap which can result in loss of life and destruction of property. It is caused by a number of issues as discussed below.
- Poor Building Construction Practices: Poor construction of buildings can cause building collapse. When a building is poorly constructed, it means that inferior building materials were used in its construction, not only that, poor quality control, inadequate supervision, refusal to follow approved specifications such as improvising without consulting the building plan, wrong cement and sand mixture, not allowing enough time for the slab to properly dry up before continuing construction, ignoring soil test, use of unsuitable foundation type, using cheap labour etc.
- Building Foundation Problems: It is important to use the appropriate foundation type to construct a house. For example, skyscrapers in areas like Lagos Island should be on pile or pad foundations, bungalows and a-storey buildings in areas with good soil can be built on a strip foundation, etc. to allow building balance and longevity. Many buildings nowadays collapse due to uneven settlement in the foundations, although the early signs of foundation faults are deep cracks in the wall. There are other types of cracks that do not emanate from the foundation, cracks that continue to expand to the lintel level are likely to be caused by the foundation.
- Natural Disasters: Some building collapses are not man-made, they occur as a result of disasters outside the control of a mere man such as earth quacks, hurricanes, landslides, floods etc when these disasters happen, the best anyone can do is to escape for safety while calling for help.
- Overloading and Structural Overstress: These occur when a building carries more weight than it should, the implication of this is that the beam, supporting walls and the columns upon which the load rests become overstressed over time and unable to bear the loads leading to sudden collapse of the building that is, if nothing is done to correct the anomaly.
5. Ageing Building: All buildings have a lifespan, a period when their functional, economic, structural and physical characteristics are active. It is the building materials used that determine the lifetime of the building, when they wear out the building gets weaker and is unable to function like a new one because it depreciates. Hence because the life span is not infinite, it is key to maintain or renovate from time to time to keep the building active and functional for use.
6. Flaws in Building Design: Buildings are the results of designs, which are put together by the architects. However, the growing number of architectural quackeries in the country has brought about flaws and errors in the building designs which is translated to the concretized development afterwards. Errors in building designs mean there will be errors in the building itself after erection. So many things make the design have faults such as wrong dimensions, inadequate specifications, irregularities in accommodation details, structural mistakes, and choice of foundation among others. The stability of buildings depends greatly on the designs used.
How to Prevent Building Collapse
Building collapse can be prevented if the following measures are ensured:
- Engagement of Qualified Personnel: The project consultant must engage qualified experts in relevant fields to make up the development team, such personnel should include, Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Quantity Surveyors, Electrical, Mechanical Structural Engineers, Land Surveyors, Builders, Urban and Regional Planners, Lawyers and Economics to contribute to the building project.
- Proper Supervision: The project must be supervised, and the team leaders should make time to visit the site to ascertain the extent of work done and outstanding works. This will keep the workers busy, and serious and have a sense of urgency and quality.
- Use of Quality Materials: Building materials are the major determinants for sustainable building projects. The use of quality materials improves the building standards and life span, it will also have a ripple effect on the type of maintenance strategy to adopt after completion.
- Routine Maintenance: Maintenance is important in building projects, especially for renovation or conversion works. The maintenance covers from substructure to superstructure level so as to forestall collapse of any sort anytime in the future.
- Quality Control: Quality control measures are achieved when contractors or developers follow applied or approved building specifications by the Urban Town Planning Authorities of the city where the building is located. It helps to ensure that quality materials are used to build and when this is not so, immediate action is taken to bring to required standards devoid of shortcuts and negligence. In a nutshell, the application of quality control measures ensures that the building quality is maintained and improved if need be.
- Periodic Inspections: Periodic inspections are a must to avoid errors. The capital territory development authorities or Town Planning Authorities do this often to checkmate developments that do not follow approved plans and materials. A proper inspection will unveil irregularities and bring defaulters to book which could end up in instant demolition or property sealing.
- Adequate Financing: One of the factors causing building collapse is the use of cheap building materials which sometimes is a result of inadequate finance or poor financial capacity to build to standards. Developers should look for alternative means of raising funds when they face financial constraints.
- Soil and Structural Tests: To ensure the building’s stability, the foundation is a top priority. Proper soil tests will indicate what is wrong and proffer immediate solutions or corrections to have a structurally balanced building.
- Adequate Labor Force: The size of building projects translates to the strength of workmen to engage. When fewer labourers are engaged for a building project that requires more, it will affect the estimated completion time and any effort to expedite the construction without increasing the number of labourers might lead to building errors and possible future collapse.
- Quality Checks and Accountability: The contractor or consultant must be accountable for every worker at the site and their capabilities for effective reporting or appraisal. If this is properly followed, it becomes easy to identify areas that are lagging and immediately follow up on what is left.