In a bid to combat building collapse in Nigeria, some leaders in the construction industry have stressed the need to promote sustainable practices as a means to overcome the challenges that have plagued the sector for years.
This call for action by architects, builders, civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, and manufacturers was echoed on Thursday at the BusinessDay Sustainable Building Conference, themed ‘Addressing the Challenges of Building Collapse’.
Uniting their voices to emphasise the urgent need for sustainable solutions in the build industry, the experts said building collapse has resulted in numerous tragedies, financial losses, and environmental damages over the years.
In her keynote speech, Igazeuma Okoroba, group head of sustainability at Dangote Group, highlighted the necessity of sustainable practices to combat this challenge, affirming Dangote Cement’s commitment to environmental care and its role in driving positive change.
“By combining technical expertise with visionary leadership, it is Dangote Cement’s desire to lead the change that ignites conversations, collaborations, and commitments that will redefine how we build in Africa,” he said.
Okoroba pointed out that various factors contribute to building collapses in Nigeria, including subpar design, the use of non-professionals, substandard materials, corruption among regulatory officials, and inadequate soil testing.
She said: “The statistics are alarming, with 461 building collapses reported between 1974 and July 2021, causing losses exceeding N10 trillion over the last three decades, as well as the loss of 1,090 lives and numerous injuries.
“Lagos State alone has witnessed 271 collapses from 2012 to 2023, resulting in 531 fatalities and extensive environmental damage.”
The conference underlined the significance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11, which emphasises the provision of affordable, safe, resilient, and inclusive housing and infrastructure.
In line with this, the professionals underscored the role of strict adherence to building standards, affordable and sustainable materials, and the amalgamation of technical expertise with visionary leadership in reshaping the construction landscape in Africa.
Gbolahan Owodunni Oki, general manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency, spoke about the pivotal role that professionals in the construction sector play in ensuring the safety and stability of structures.
He stressed the importance of collaboration between stakeholders and a collective commitment to addressing the issue. “In addressing this menace, all hands must be on deck. Government, stakeholders in the built industry including professionals and artisans as well as every member of the society must be involved in proffering a lasting solution,” Oki said.
Odunayo Ojo, managing director of UACN Property Development Company, highlighted the financial and reputational consequences of building collapses on firms. He advocated a holistic approach to sustainability, encompassing energy efficiency and operational considerations from the very outset of a project.
“For a building to be truly sustainable, its operational aspects must be considered. Energy efficiency and easy maintenance are key components of sustainable designs,” Ojo said.
Kunle Awobodu, former president of Nigerian Institute of Building and pioneer president of Building Collapse Prevention Guild, noted the disparity between theoretical education and practical experience, stressing the importance of aligning educational curricula with industry practices.
Grace Ofure, CEO of Lifecard Company, also emphasised the necessity of financial support for the construction sector, urging both government and private sector involvement in nurturing young talents and promoting sustainable living practices.