6 reasons why buildings collapse

Without  doubt  the occasional  irrational fluctuation in share prices at the Stock exchange is primarily due to greed breaking  loose. Well, this  unchecked greed ,on evidence  that can be easily  adduced, has broken  loose in building construction sector.Which explains  why    we are increasingly recieving media  reports of incidences of building collapse around the country.  Apparently , some decent   building construction practitioners (under influence  of greed) have quickly become so psychotic and neurotic basket cases, that they are ready and willing to disregard building  construction  code regulations and act out their fantasies in the name of making quick  bucks. And these fantasies are proving very expensive in terms of waste of building materials that are often reduced to a pile of rubble, reworks costs and loss of lives. No doubt this trend must be arrested before it gets out of control. 
Which is why  we should not just   look at the problem   from the point view of a social  scientist,but also from that of a building construction guru.And according  to any such guru worth his or her  salt, there are actually six causes that can make a building to come tumbling down like a land slide.

First in the list are issues to do with   inadequate foundation .We need  not look no farther,  than at the well documented and  infamous case  of  the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy,to appreciate  why a good  building  foundation matter  so much to  high performance  and durable buildings . It is the foundation that does  a lot of behind  the scene  heavy lifting-  carrying the   loads  of  walls ,  floors and roof  as well as occupants  and  furniture and transmiting  them  safely  to  the  ground. Any deficiency in foundation will make this transfer nearly impossible, causing all manner of  distortion and cracking in the substructure .Also, unsuitable foundation for a given a construction site subsoil could cause the building load to overwhelm it, leading to disproportionate   consolidation and settlement that may ruin the foundation and the building. Finally , where a thin slab of less than 100mm  is poured, or the slab is   not  reinforced with a steel  mesh when there is a demonstrable  need for it , like  at a  site that has  soft spots,  then  such   work  is sure  fail to spread the building load  evenly  and  will  creates  problems later as  different part  of ground  settle  disproportionately. Any time building construction practitioners ignore to take in consideration the building load and soil type, it amounts to no less than  setting  the stage for a disaster, like the one we  often read about in the local paper news.

Another thing,is that some developers and contractors fail to remember that you can  only do so much, when rushing or fast-tracking  the construction of a building , beyond which the quality  of the structure will seriously be  compromised. This because modules such as the foundation, suspended floor slabs and load-bearing walls and columns take their sweet time to cure and reach full or designed strength. Any  additional  load of  a floor or roof   before  the minimum  required curing time lapse(a few weeks)  will put severe strain on the superstructure and  may cause it  to collapse  suddenly and without warning. And why in the world, would someone be in such a hurry, you may ask. Bank loan repayment is the answer.  These  developers cum landlords, being short of funds ,  borrow bank money  to  fund their projects and   for one reason or other ,want  the building to be complete  and bring home rental  income, by the time the first few   loan repayments  falls due.But to their chagrin  ,this bite  proves  too big to chew and end up not only failing to achieve their goal, but also meet financial ruin with without ceremony.

Then there is the small issue of inaccurate mixing of materials when making mortar and concrete. The aggregate mix must be in certain  pre-determined proportions if you are to have a structurally strong building .However on the one hand, some unscrupulous people out to save money may knowingly use less than required proportion of cement. The end result is mortar and concrete that is too weak when it sets, that it cannot possibly withstand the compression forces of the building load. On other  hand ,  the mason may be  injudicious  and  use  excessive  cement  that  produces very strong   mortar-a kind of mortar that creates strong  but brittle  bonds. In this  case the  bricks  or  blocks  will  not   be able to   withstand  effect  of weather related  shrinkage and expansion, causing the  loss of the bonds  and  structural cracks in the  walls. And these cracks will eventually be made worse by the building load per square meter. All these  scenarios   are an albatross  across the neck of the building’s future.

Directly related to the foregoing is the question of unqualified workers   hired on many building construction site because of lack of skilled labor in the sector. This problem is twofold: On the one side ,the Kenya association of master builders (KAMB) has made it known to anyone who care to listen, that the  building construction is grappling with a serious shortage of skilled masons, plumber and such trades professionals. On the flip side,   BORAQS (Board  for  registration of Architects and Quantity surveyors of Kenya)  continue to lament the inadequately staffed  offices  of county  inspectorate of  physical  planning  because of a shortage of middle level supervisory   building construction professionals. What this   means is that ,  a lot  work is being done by  unskilled  workers and there  is not  enough government  supervisors  to enforce the building code  regulations . For example when this kind of  workers  ignore    treating the  foundation with  anti-termite solution before  pouring the slab, there is  basically no  mid-level  county  government  supervisor to  enforce  that  requirement, something that is  sure undermine the durability of a building.

And as if all these are not enough problems for one sector of the economy, we have also the pesky issue of substandard building materials. Recently I was  shocked  by a  hardware  merchant  who asked  me if  I  wanted to buy  genuine original   steel bar   or counterfeit  , which he said  were cheaper  to  entice me into the trap. My point-there is a big market for counterfeit and substandard building materials in the country. When such building materials are  used, we  end up  with   structurally  weak  buildings,  because while the materials are  relatively   cheaper , they are  at the same time of  very dubious  quality. In fact,the quality is  so dubious that  deploying the materials  on a building is like using un-fired clay bricks to build a dam wall. What is more  worse,  some  unscrupulous  developers and contractors   use   scrap metal  or  inappropriate  steel to  reinforce  concrete in slabs and columns!

To crown  all the above reasons , is the universal   problem of  human character failings  called corruption. County government physical planning or inspectorate   officers  routinely fail to enforce the building code regulations or fail to   bring down building condemned for demolition  because  of kickbacks they have  received  from landlord  and developers. These are the very building that collapse a few month down the line, taking with them blameless lives.

©2017Copyright: East Africa Little Hardware Ltd.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s