Building engineers and construction experts have continued to lament the poor maintenance culture among Nigerian property owners and its colossal effect on safety of lives in the country.
In Lagos, the nation’s commercial hub, the recent wave of building collapse and loss of over 25 lives on the aggregate raise more questions regarding building standards and maintenance culture among property owners and government agencies.
According to experts, it takes a man with a eagle eye to understand that noticeable defects on building are capable of causing it to collapse. Those who are not vigilant may not take notice of serious cracks that could bring the house down. According to experts in the built environment the signs of this movement are major cracks on your wall or when it becomes difficult to lock your doors or windows again.
Many a time, those who do routine maintenance checks notice these defects and start on time to correct them before they get out of control. The whopping amount of money and sometimes lives that are lost during the last decade or so, to these building collapses are a cause for concern, and that is exactly why it has become a topical discuss in almost several fora. Unlike acts of terrorism or natural disasters, a building doesn’t just pack up and collapse. Housing collapse could come as a result of cracks in the wall, dilapidation and house movement.
It could also come through creaking and popping sounds. Structural dampness can also cause building collapse just as noticeable gaps between floors and faulty foundation.
A building collapse comes with warning signs that most times, we unconsciously ignore or pay very little attention to. This is why occupant of any building whether residential or commercial should always give penchant attention to his surrounding environment. If the result of the collapse fails to come within, it could come from burrows or acts of denudation. But if these are noticed on time, they could be check and nipped from the bud.
You will agree with me that if some serious level of attention had been paid when this telltale signs were first noticed, the resultant loss of life and property could have been easily averted. Paying attention to those signs can go a way in helping you raise an alarm on time and initiate preventive measures. However, people go into renovation or maintenance without first consulting the professionals in real estate.
This lack of knowledge takes them away from the right things to do. It is equally dangerous to commence renovation immediately without first engaging a proper real estate professional to carry out a structural integrity test on the building. This structural integrity test will make you understand the extent of the problem to be in the know what and what to repay, change or renovate. This test can help point out what parts of the building is the weakest, as well as where and how to begin the renovations.
There are quite a number of reasons a building collapse could happen. It could be as a result of an act of terrorism, a structural failure or natural disasters like an earthquake, hurricane, flooding, landslide, tornado, gully or a mudslide. On 12 September 2014, a guesthouse located within the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) premises around the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos State collapsed completely to the ground. The collapsed building killed at least 115 people, 84 of them from South Africa.
The Nigerian emergency services refused to release the nationalities of the victims, but other countries have provided some details about those who died. The vast majority of casualties were from South Africa, but the nationalities of dozens of people remained unclear. The National Emergency Management Agency (NAMA) and other emergency services were criticized for withholding information about the accident and much remained unclear about the number of deaths and their nationalities. Nigeria has suffered its share of building collapse in the past with several cases of buildings collapsing and killing scores of people.
On December 10, 2016, Nigeria was hit by a tragedy when a church collapsed in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom; killing over 200 people. Same accidents have happened in several other places including Lagos, Ibadan, Ogun State. Remember the Synagogue building collapse too? According to the General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Sola Adeigbe, a total of 1,104 buildings were sealed from Between June and October 2017 across Lagos State as a result of defective or illegal construction.
The fact remains that buildings do not just collapse. There are always warning signs. The moment you notice any of the warning signs it is good you immediately evacuate the building and make it a point of duty to notify your nearest Local Government Area (LGA). When you begin to see large cracks in the walls around the house, please note that those are signs of an impending accident. Large cracks are different from small ones. Those ones are mild and don’t pose an immediate danger to your building.
But when the cracks go beyond mild and grow wilder, then it becomes something you should be concerned about. Dilapidation leads to deterioration in the support structure of the building. When you start seeing these deterioration on your property, then know it is a disaster waiting to happen. Your property is in danger of a possible building collapse.
One of the most dangerous warnings of an impending collapse is when the house is moving. Experts believe that there are times when you would notice that certain parts of the house have shifted from their original position. This means that over a period of time, certain parts of the house have shifted from their original position as a result of foundation problems.
Experts in the built environment the signs of this movement are major cracks on your wall or when it becomes difficult to lock your doors or windows again. Technically, when the foundation of the building shifts, it sets into motion, a disturbing number of serious events throughout the house, which forces the house to move. When the house you live in begins to make creaking and popping sounds, you should be very worried. When a house creaks, what is happening is that the metal parts contract much more than the wood does. As a result, the nails, pipes and air ducts rub against the wood.
Also, the wood rubs and grinds against other wooden parts of the structure, which creates the creaking sounds. If you ever find yourself hearing weird sounds and cracks especially during strong winds, it’s a sign you should pay attention to.
Another telltale sign is when you begin to notice mould or rot around certain parts of the house like the ceiling, the interior of the walls, the floors. These are parts that ordinarily shouldn’t be wet because they have been structurally reinforced to resist moisture.