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Underpinning Operation: Another Building Collapse Averted

Posted by Osaz' Enobakhare (Engr) on September 23, 2022
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In my decade of practice, I have seen that most buildings or structures that have been poorly built across the country have been those that suffered from either owner-contractor syndrome (OCS), the multi-contracting approach or the sentimental management model. This prevails due to the absence or lack of enforcement of an effective regulatory system for the industry. While owner-contractor syndrome simply refers to the system where the project owner who is not a construction professional doubles as the contractor or the direct handlers of their project or directly overbears on the activities of the project handlers, the multi-contracting approach happens when project owners engage too many hands on the job without proper co-ordination or construction management system in place. 

The sentimental approach is very common especially with project owners based abroad where they are either by virtue of personal relationships or other reasons than merit or professionalism compelled to engage persons in the handling of their project who simply have no business doing so -the outcome is quite often a mess! You hear things like -My in-law or my cousin was the one handling my project, then you discover the in-law or cousin being referred to is only a stylist, a banker or perhaps a travel agent. Yes ‘trust issues’, I can relate but then the building begins to strike an awkward pose causing funny stares from passers-by, the columns seem to be ‘travelling away’ from the building frame, the bulging walls make people wonder if money was stacked inside them and suddenly you remember that a professional broker is not the same as a professional builder and that construction professionals are just few blocks away.

Having been involved with a couple of underpinning operations to save buildings from imminent collapse or sick building syndrome (SBS), these aforementioned items are often the predominant causes of poor-quality jobs that liter our landscape. Since the deed have been done, we cannot be crying over spilt milk. There are quite several buildings begging for urgent attention before they finally ‘bow to the cold hands of collapse’. What do we do? We save them like we have done in Ketu, Gbagada, Lakowe, Victoria Island, Lekki, Ajah, Magodo, Arepo etc. How about you know that sometimes these building begin to fail or show signs of weaknesses or symptoms of SBS even before they are completed or occupied? This is often the best time to solve them. Once occupied there is another dimension to it, but it can still be done. Differential, tipping or excessive settlements are common issues with most of the defective buildings I have worked on, and my team and I have dealt successfully with all cases handled. In all, we have saved several lives and properties or investments worth millions of dollars. Before embarking on the structural salvation journey, it is important to first understand and appreciate the root cause of the defect so that you know the right approach to solving it.

Underpinning operations require expertise, and a defective building can be returned to normalcy to meet its original life span. The cost of underpinning is generally not as expensive as demolishing and putting up a new structure and flip and sell developers can see an opportunity here -few are already taking advantage of it but that’s a discussion for another day.

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Osaz’ Enobakhare, the award-winning Structural Engineer & Contractor has successfully delivered over 100 projects in the last decade through his company -Heavens Group (HG). He is involved in designs, building construction, real estate, civil infrastructure and industrial projects. He is open to project opportunities, business co-operation and partnerships in Nigeria and elsewhere. Phone: +2347001113333 E-mail: engineerosaz@gmail.com

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