A building collapse is the partial or complete sudden failure of the structural component of a building. Building collapses are regrettably common in Nigeria. In 2013 alone, there were 20 recorded collapses in Abuja State, according to housing ministry figures, and at least 84 people have been killed in 18 building collapses in Lagos State in the past two years. While cases might differ, there are six common reasons why buildings collapse.
- Weak Foundation
A weak foundation is one of the most common reasons why buildings collapse. A good foundation takes quality materials, proper planning, and construction expertise. If the builders do not adequately prepare the soil underneath before the foundation is poured, it can cause foundation settlement, where the foundation begins to settle into the ground. Sometimes, poor drainage inside or around a property and plumbing leaks can cause an oversaturation of the soil and damage the foundation’s integrity.
- Inferior Materials
Building materials are getting costlier by the day, especially with the rising foreign exchange, and some developers try to cut costs by acquiring inferior materials. While this might save a little money here and there, it is not worth the risk to the hundreds or even thousands of human lives affected if the building collapses. All building materials, like cement, sand, steel, bricks, etc., should be approved for use by an engineer who will confirm that they are of optimal quality. These materials should also be handled, stored, and mixed adequately to prevent damage.
- The load is greater than the strength.
Sometimes, buildings collapse because the load on that structure has surpassed the strength. It is not necessarily that the building wasn’t strong, but it wasn’t built for that load. Imagine placing a bag of rice on a small plastic table – the table is bound to be destroyed. In Nigeria, the more significant load often comes from adding extra storeys to a structure to maximize its use. An example of this occurred in September 2014, when the church building belonging to famous pastor T.B Joshua collapsed, killing over 100 people because the building had more floors than it could support, according to authorities.
- Errors in structural design
Developers are trained to avoid any errors in the structural design of a building. However, because the Nigerian construction industry relies heavily on informal construction activities that do not always follow laid-down procedures, errors are bound to happen. The actions of these “bricklayers” cannot be fully monitored due to the informality of their operations. This can lead to a quality breach, which causes structural failure that can lead to building collapse.
- Harsh Weather Conditions
Earthquakes can make anything collapse, including buildings. However, in Nigeria, Flooding is a common culprit in the partial or complete collapse of buildings. In addition to our poor drainage systems, prolonged rainfall can compromise the foundation and structural integrity of a building. Sometimes, the rain can cause a mudslide, leading to a building collapse. In June 2020, two children were killed in Lagos state after a building collapsed due to a mudslide caused by heavy rain.
- Lack of maintenance
Buildings need constant maintenance – without it, they can deteriorate to the point of collapse. By implementing a maintenance culture, developers can replace worn-out or damaged elements to preserve the longevity of the building.