Government is responsible for the protection of lives and property of citizens in the country. But a lot of damages have been done for a long time. This means that solution cannot come in one fall. It has to be gradual but it has to be consistent and it must be monitored. If laws are made and are not implemented…law is a kind of written document that could never talk on its own. Every citizen has to be their brother’s keeper. By so doing we can save lives by reporting wherever we see quacks at work.
If these quacks are the sufferers of the consequence of their work, nobody would be bothered but innocent persons are.
You can see the efforts that we have made to ensure that the National Building Code is put in place. Code is the minimum standard that is desirable. Whoever falls short of that should be taken for it.
The National Assembly is working seriously with us in making sure that they pass the law that will enable the implementation of the National Building Code as drafted by us. We want them to expedite action.
Construction is a team work of professionals. Are you saying all these professionals are not good?
Most collapse cases are as a result of quackery in the sense that a trader that ought to be selling clothes in the market has taken over construction work without employing qualified and competent professionals. Yes, you can go into it as a businessman, invest in it and employ capable hands to carry out the job. If you do that we wouldn’t be having incidence of building collapse here and there but most people go on their own and start building without any regulation. It has become an every Tom, Dick and Harry affair and that is where government should come in. The planning and regulatory arms of the government should make sure that they do proper monitoring, in the sense that whoever wants to build a house must have all the professionals on ground so that they have somebody that is accountable. In most of these incidents in the recent past, there were no professionals involved. Wherever they are involved, it is at the design approval stage.
You can see that the National Insurance Commission has been empowered in such a way that it would be able to monitor construction sites that are not more than two floors so they would be insured. If insurance is there it will minimise the risk involved.
What is the National Building Code all about?
It is like the Bible and Quran of construction. It sets the minimum standards. For instance, if you want to build a two-storey structure, there are standards for what materials to be used. It is more or less a reference to all other international standard codes like we have the British standard. It spells out the quality of paint, the minimum quality of iron rods for whatever purpose and so on. Professionals that are to practice construction are also listed. Any other person that goes to do anything contrary would violate the law.
But this is Nigeria where laws are hardly obeyed. There are doubts that even with the code, compliance would be nil?
We don’t joke with our work because we don’t have any other. We want to make sure that construction is done properly. We are very strict in adherence to quality and standards. You can invest in building construction but you should carry along people that are specialists in that field. We are confident that if it is passed things will change.
We know also that some buildings are quite old?
Yes, buildings have their own life span too; the average life span of a building is between 50 and 60 years, depending on the construction or the standard. Just as the CofO has its life span, buildings also have. They should be demolished and rebuilt but most of the buildings were not constructed properly. The average life span depends on the quality and the competence of who constructed the building.
Buildings that are deficient would definitely not last long. And those who are guilty of this would not be around at the time of the collapse. That is the danger in it.
Due to lack of proper documentation, we have not seen 50-year buildings being deliberately demolished in this country as is the case in the advanced world. When buildings are completed, they should be labelled that this building expires on this date. It should be written and pasted on the building so that even those that were not born when the building was constructed would always see that this building is going to expire at a certain age. That would save some lives.
How would you describe the quality of housing estates that are springing up in Abuja?
Well, those housing estates are 50-50 issue. Most of those that parade themselves as real estate developers are business people who are not qualified and are cutting corners. If not for the efforts of the Department of Development Control, you would have seen a lot of shanties called housing estates. But it can still do more.
Apart from working towards having the National Building Code, what else is NIQS doing for the construction industry?
The roles of each professional in construction industry are complementary. In our own case, we have what we call comparism of various alternative quality building rules. If you chose to do a mass housing project, you must mindful that mass housing means a public asset. Once it is transferred you have little control over them. For such property there is a lot of periodical maintenance which ought to be carried out. There are ones that are five years, 10 years and 20 years. The roofs are expected to be replaced every 10 years; the walls are to be re-painted every two years depending on the quality of the paint used. Everything has its expiry time and when they expire they are to be replaced. But they don’t do it here.
What we are saying is that if professionals are involved, we know the kind of materials to produce for what kind of occupants. In mass housing for instance, you don’t use blocks and paint them because rain washes the paint away and nobody is ready to repaint. In a situation like that you use bricks that would not need to be painted for whatever reason, either rain or sun effect. Though the brick wall might not be as beautiful as the painted wall, it lasts for longer years.
If you patronise professionals you would have value for your money but if you are running away from the professionals because of their charges you will later find out that our charges are minute compared to the money to waste as a result of failure to do it the right way.
High cost of building materials is one of the reasons people tend to cut corners and thereby build sub-standard houses.
The inflationary trend affects all sectors of life. If you say the building materials are costly, you run away from the cost and put down death trap, which one is better? I don’t believe it is cost because we have a lot of alternative materials that can serve.
That is why we have a lot of abandoned projects everywhere? People don’t patronise quantity surveyors. They believe they can always call bricklayers without minding what they have in their purse.
What are the functions of quantity surveyors in the construction process?
We are the cost accountants and the cost planners of the construction industry. In fact, if you want to build a house think of the quantity surveyor first before you think of any other professional.
People don’t think about what happens after. If you buy a car that would be consuming 10 gallons of fuel per kilometre at a very cheap price, you have neglected the cost in use, which is the cost of running it.
So quantity surveyors should be contacted whenever you want to build a house in terms of what you have, what quality you want and how you run it as well as the kind of plan that you want. Quantity surveyors would be able to give you a guide as par the likely building that can be within your purse that can last very long without too much expenses. We don’t charge millions and we are there to render after use service.