Professionals urge Lagos to demolish 1,000 distressed buildings

Collapsed-BuildingFollowing an invitation for memorandum by the committee on the restructuring and reorganization of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory, professional bodies in the built environment have called on the State Government to immediately take steps towards demolishing over 1,000 identified distressed buildings in the state.

Besides, they urged the State Government to involve all the real estate professional bodies in its fight against building collapse and the restructuring of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), saying that would yield an all-inclusive solution.

They said a situation where a professional group is favoured over another was not good for the system, and may make the threat of collapsed buildings in the state to linger.

According the real estate professionals, the over 1,000 buildings that failed integrity tests on the Lagos Island and those left unattended to for years should be demolished as soon as possible.

They also said a systematic approach at conducting extensive integrity tests on buildings across Lagos State should be adopted.

The groups are the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Ikeja Branch, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Building Collapse Prevention Guide (BCPG).

The most recent collapse with over 30 people casualties was a five-storey building, owned by Lekki Gardens. The unfortunate incidence led to the sacking of some officials of Lagos State and a formation of a five-man committee to retool the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA).

In a joint statement, while the professionals commended the state’s response to the Lekki Garden’s property collapse, they, however, faulted the membership of the same, saying all real estate professional groups were not represented. They asked the Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to do a review of the committee to caption professionals in the built environment.

While acknowledging the 2011 urban and physical development law in the state, the professionals said: “The problem we identify here is not the law itself but its implementation. However, the regulations that are supposed to accompany the law have been subjected to intrigues and suspicion within the system.”

They called for the upholding of a specification in the 2010 Physical Planning Law and Building Control, which separates officials who approve building plans at pre-construction stage from officials for site inspection at construction stage.

“However, the moment the officials of the two sectors become interchangeable, the objective is defeated. For instance, when town planners, whose primary responsibility is within the Planning Permit Authority, are now transferred to constitute over 50 percent of LASBCA staff, such a step is antithetical to the goal of physical planning and building control regulations.”

Noting that there has not been accurate data on the number of buildings under construction in Lagos State, they urged the Lagos State government to embark on urgent enumeration of building sites in the state, adding that professional bodies were ready to partner with the government for the success of this initiative.

On project monitoring, the professionals said that all project developments in the state should be monitored to ensure appropriate professional inputs at both design and construction stages, as the issue of foundation in building must be taken seriously.

“The spate of foundation failure, especially piling, requires immediate government intervention. Therefore, the geotechnical sector, that is, soil test and piling activities should be regulated to prevent future collapse of buildings and, or structures induced by mistakes from the geotechnical or foundation sector.”

LASBCA’s staff strength was said to be grossly inadequate and they recommended the engagement of experienced professionals to beef up the agency’s inspection or monitoring of sites assignments.

“Inspection or monitoring of sites should be executed by relevant professionals, who have knowledge, experience and competence to identify substandard building production process and also possess the ability to discern conflicts between the approved building plan and buildings being constructed on site. Please, let us have round pegs in round holes, not otherwise.”

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