The Federal Government has been advised to compel engineers in the country to practise only in their areas of core competence to stem the tide of structural defects and building collapses.
President of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NIStructE), Engr. OreOluwa Fadayomi, said many people erroneously believe that once they have an engineering qualification and are registered to practise by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, (COREN), they can undertake the design and construction supervision of buildings.
This, he said, has led to the rising statistics of deaths and financial loss from building failures and eventual collapse. Unless this mindset was reversed, “structural failures and collapses will continue to remain our problems,” he said. According to him, an audit of all engineering positions in the federal, state and local governments should be carried out to put round pegs in round holes. “Engineers in these positions should be firm and resist undue pressure to do anything unethical.”
Fadayomi said the team of professionals on a building project should include: the surveyor, the planner, architect, quantity surveyor, civil and structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, builder and estate surveyor.
He said, “Each one of these is expected to be sound and to be an expert in his right. However, the expert that is particularly responsible for design and construction supervision in order to prevent a collapse is the structural engineer, because any error or omission in design by any of the other professionals in the design team would not necessarily cause the building to collapse.”
The structural engineer, he added, is the most critical factor in the prevention of a building collapse, and his actions or inactions could prevent a disaster waiting to happen.
“The Structural Engineer would as a cause of good engineering practice and professional competence ensure that: the sub-soil investigation of the building site was carried out by a geotechnical engineer in other to guide his foundation design; the building was diligently designed to the recommended codes and that safety, durability, sustainability and economy were top considerations in the design; he monitored the construction and ensured that the materials used were of good quality and to specifications and that the necessary quality control test and other construction records were carried out on the project.”
Fadayomi noted that “the government is the largest employer of engineers in the country but very few of them are structural engineers.
Often, he noted, the client, in haste to start realising returns on his investment, puts undue pressure on the structural engineer and the building contractor, and so construction would be so rushed that the structural elements would not have fully matured before being heavily loaded or put to use. “Some Estate Developers and Banking Institutions are guilty of this behaviour. The building may collapse under this condition.”
Noting that the judiciary and the police, are the arms of government to enforce the laws and punish culprits in order to serve as deterrent, he lamented that “Of the many collapses that have occurred, not many people are known to have been prosecuted to date…”