[dropcap size=big]N[/dropcap]igeria recently witnessed a tragic collapse of a church building in Uyo which claimed over 150 lives. In an interview with Guardian’s Bertram Nwannekanma, the 26th President of Nigerian Institute of Architects, Tonye Oliver Braide, speaks on how architects can help in checking building collapse and the roles they should play in the process of construction.
When posed with the question on building collapse and the role of the architect in averting it, this was his response:
The collapse of buildings occurs from several factors beyond the direct participation of the architect. The architect conceives the space and hands over to the engineer to put in place the design solutions to carry the structure. The engineer may recommend changes to the design to bring the final solution within an acceptable budget. The architect must have basic knowledge of structural design to appreciate the engineering solution and may have to make certain amendments to the initial design. However while these communication moves between architect and engineer, the client may appoint a contractor who may not have qualified personnel who will be able to interpret the design solutions. This is where the first danger signals could occur.
There are cases where clients repeat projects using designs for different sites on new sites without reference to the architect. Different soil conditions could put the new building at risk. Again clients tend to alter projects mid-stream on the advice of ill-informed friends and associates. This can lead to collapse.
Legislation should be put in place to register every building designed by an architect along with the profile of all consultants responsible for the execution. There must be a responsibility clause to bind the architect to the project until completion and certification for use issued. This will give the impetus for architects to hold maximum control on their projects until completion and under these circumstances failure will then lie squarely on the architect for he will have powers to hire and fire any of the actors in the construction process. But under the situation where construction is an all comers affair with persons who have never gone to school claiming to know more engineering than fully qualified structural engineers, buildings will continue to fall and unfortunately lives may be lost. Every building that collapses is a clarion call to Government to take action, call the professionals to take responsibility and put a stop to this once and for all. Where Government lacks the act of will, professionals can do very little.