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Building collapse in Nigeria

The menace of building collapse in Nigeria from an architect’s perspective

Nigeria real estate hub was in an exclusive interview with architect Seun Ogunleye to discuss the menace of building collapse in Nigeria.

He is a Registered Architect and a Full Member of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). He is also the Assistant PRO of Nigerian Institute of Architects, Lagos State Chapter.

Read his interview below

NREH: What area of architecture do you focus on?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: It’s not a specialisation so to say. Our focus is broad. We cater for hospitality, Healthcare, Housing and Agricultural developments. We cover all the spectrum of Architecture in the built environment.

NREH: What kind of challenges do you face in the built environment?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: One of the challenges we are facing is that the industry remains immature in the sense that few people find it important to procure the services of an Architect for their developments. You will find that only a very few percentages of the populace refer to the services of an architect for their buildings. Most of them prefer to hand it over to the informal sector like the bricklayers, labourer, e.t.c. They would rather spend all their funds in procuring the building materials than employing an Architect. At the end of the day, you find out that they don’t do things properly, the rooms are not the standard sizes, the foundation is poorly developed just because you trying to avoid paying the fees of a professional

NREH: Do you think this is part of the problems that contributed to the menace of building collapse in Nigeria?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: Definitely. The menace of building collapse is directly linked to the non-input of professionals in the development because there are already standard procedures. For example, you want to do development, you need to first of all test the soil and know the type of soil so you can know the bearing capacity of the soil. You will know the kind of foundation that is suited for that soil type and also how high you can go whether 2 floors or 10floors.
You find out that people either do it because of ignorance or they are trying to avoid the cost of hiring consultant or professionals. They just prefer to go to site with their bricklayer and start working which results in building collapse or overdevelopment in most cases

NREH: Do you think the professionals are overpriced or underpriced?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: Well, employing professionals is not cheap but it’s not an issue of being underpriced or overpriced. We have a template called the scale of fees. Your consulting fee is a percentage of the building’s cost.

NREH: Is it affordable?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: Generally, construction is not cheap and affordability is subjective. If you can afford to build a house of let’s say, 10million naira, you should be able to afford the fee to ensure that your investment is properly executed. Normally, professional fee is 10-12% of that amount of money. I won’t say affordability is the reason people are shying away from taking responsibilities, it is simply because they do not have a grasp of the consequences their reckless action might cause in the future. Now this comes back to the development control, how is the government implementing the laws that they put in place? If the penalties for such actions are stiff, people would start to get wary and conscious of their actions.

NREH: As the assistant PRO of the Nigerian Institute of Architecture, Lagos chapter, What are the steps the institute has taken so far or what are the steps they are about to take?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye:  Currently, I know the Lagos state government set up a 5-man committee which also has the chairman of NIA, Lagos State chapter as member of that committee and I know they would be issuing reports. Asides that, the NIA itself has issued what we called Architects Intervention Programme. It’s a document that advises the Government on how to go about reviewing and endorsing documents for approval purposes. It’s also proposing a template of how to integrate the professionals in that system in reviewing, monitoring and implementing all these guidelines for development.

NREH: Does this development involve demolishing houses that have already been marked for demolition?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: Usually, after a number of years, a location should normally undergo urban regeneration. This is very typical in places like London. Normally there should be a master plan. That master plan would indicate or illustrate how areas like slums should be regenerated. In that instance, Lagos Island is due for regeneration which would mean that almost all the houses would have to go. There would now be a replanning of the area. The intervention they are doing now is short-termed. They have noticed buildings that are looking stressed and they’ve marked them for demolition. Demolition is still ongoing for some of those houses. It’s just something that can’t be avoided and after a while, they need to revamp the street or area to make it in line with current realities.

NREH: Do you have anything to say to a young architect out there trying to find his feet in the industry?

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: Architecture is sweet and sour. You find that most people leave school and start working almost immediately as an Architect. This is not the most ideal scenario. What would be the best thing is for one to find an establishment that can groom you through the years but the challenge with that is the number of firms that are really practicing is limited so the choices are also limited. What I would advise young graduates is that before they enrol in school of Architecture, ensure that the school is accredited. Secondly, get experience in your first 2 years post-graduation in a relatively good firm and attempt your professional exams as early as possible so that we can have more registered professionals in the industry

NREH: Thanks for your time sir

Arc. Seun Ogunleye: You are welcome

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