Human factors affecting building construction quality in Nigeria

By Priya Chetty on January 28, 2020

The building construction industry is a key contributor in the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors of an economy. It converts raw materials in the finished form such as railways, roads, or buildings, enabling infrastructure development (Foulkes and Ruddock, 2003; Fernández-Solís, 2008).

It encompasses three major components:

  • building construction (contractors building houses, buildings, or offices).
  • infrastructure construction (consist of activities focused on roads, bridges, highways or railways construction).
  • speciality trades (specialized construction works are involved like plumbers, masons, or electricians) (Szymanski, 2007).

Among all the three construction industries, building construction has an important role in the sustainable development of the economy. It not only contributes to economic development but also affects the comfort, security, health, and life quality of an individual (Atwa, 2017). Therefore the quality of the project is to be maintained at each stage i.e. design, inception, execution, maintenance, and operation. Failure to abide by quality specifications leads to not meeting the need of stakeholders, wastage of resources, environmental damages, and accidents (Zabihi, Habib and Mirsaeedie, 2012).

Many factors in the processes of building construction hamper the quality of a project. Some of these factors are concerned with:

  • design-related issues,
  • lack of management support,
  • use of sub-standard materials,
  • lack of communication,
  • inadequate supervision,
  • inappropriate selection of the contractors,
  • financial issues,
  • poor human resource management and,
  • conflict among the team members (Valverde-Gascueña et al., 2011; Shejul, Konnur and Bonde, 2019).

Among all these factors, human management factors affect the productivity of each worker which not only lead to delay in completion of the construction project but often creates chances of accidents, environmental damages, and wastage of resources (Munu et al., 2017). These factors are (Rustom and Amer, 2003; Jha and Iyer, 2006a):

  • inappropriate supervision
  • usage of sub-standard materials
  • lack of teamwork
  • conflicts
  • poor human resource management
  • unskilled labour force;

This article in detail identifies the human management factors which not only lead to a decrease in productivity of each worker but also hampers the quality of a project in the Nigerian construction industry.

Human factors affecting building construction quality
Figure 1: Human factors affecting building construction quality

Absence of proper supervision and monitoring of sites

The essence of proper monitoring of the construction process was highlighted in the study by Jha and Iyer (2006b). The study encapsulates that proper monitoring followed by timely feedback of any deviances from the quality can aid in timely rectification of such deviances. The study laid down that apt monitoring controls workmanship and in return the quality of the construction project also. The research established that if each of the processes is monitored aptly, it is less likely that there is poor workmanship or the usage of inappropriate resources (labour, material, plant and machinery).

Ede, (2010) has also discussed the need for proper monitoring while studying the trend of building collapse in Nigeria. The research considers lack of supervision as one of the prime reasons behind alarming rates of building failures in Nigeria. The basic stages of the building construction were expanded in the study:

  • the theoretical and design stage,
  • followed by the physical construction-supervision stage and,
  • finally the post-construction stage.

By linking the supervision with physical construction, the study indicates the need for continuous monitoring of the construction work. Ede, (2010) describe construction-supervision stage as the most complicated process as it often involves large numbers of conflicting acts. The research argues that this is the reason that only competent and appropriately trained professionals can handle this stage.

Basirat et al. (2016) also highlighted the lack of proper supervision as one of the serious issues that need to be taken care of in the Nigerian construction industry. The research established the need for supervision of the activities of human resources in the industry so as to abate corruption. Elaborating upon the need for supervision, it was asserted in the study that in the absence of strict supervision by qualified authority, the buildings can fail even if there is no deficiency in the design. Multiple factors are responsible for lack of supervision including the impulsiveness of the client, the endeavours to cost-cutting, corruption, undue interference of the architects in the supervision of the construction sites, and lack of adequate knowledge to supervise the project.

Customers affirmed to cut corners

As mentioned earlier, the client or customer satisfaction is of foremost importance in the construction industry as well like any other industry. But as Wood (1975) cited in Rowlinson, (1988) warns that undue interference of the client in the construction project can be detrimental. This section attempts to investigate this aspect. Building failure occurs not only due to the issues in the supply or the members of the construction industry but also the customers can be equally held responsible for such incessant incidences in Nigeria.

The study by Dimuna, (2010) aimed at investigating about ceaseless building collapses in Nigeria sheds light on the client factor. The study highlights that a high number of buildings in Nigeria are residential in nature thus owned by individuals and as such, the decision-making rests in the hands of individual customers. The study further indicts the clients for cutting corners and not employing qualified professionals to economize on the construction costs. It was also argued in the study that even if such clients hire competent staff, they usually concentrate decision-making in their hands to have the final say in everything. This adversely affects the construction process and quality. Despite this, in case of any mishap, customers deny to accept the responsibility of their decisions and accuse the contractor of poor construction quality.

The above findings have been confirmed three years later by Anthony, (2013) who also shed light on the customers’ side that cause buildings failure. The research claims that many clients in Nigeria have the proclivity to cut corners that is why these clients do not hire qualified construction personnel so as to cut costs.

In the same year, Dosumu and Iyagba, (2013) conducted research on identifying the causes for errors in the construction documents in Nigeria. The study gave a detailed review of the clients’ role in the process and brings into light multiple issues of clients’ cutting corners. The study claimed that right from the attitude of the client to the precision of design requirements provided by the client, everything affects the quality of construction documents. It is often that clients do not properly plan the construction, provide inadequate funds for the construction process and do not oversee the project as it should be. However, many times contractors unduly accuse the clients for cutting corners to withhold the shortcomings of the construction process.

Sub-standard materials

Past studies on building collapses in different countries worldwide have specified this cause of buildings collapse. Jha and Iyer, (2006b) attribute the use of sub-standard construction materials to the rising competition in the industry. The study asserts that due to fierce industry competition, contractors sometimes bid at lower project prices and to manage profit by using inferior quality of materials. The study also claims that such incidences are more common in the government-owned projects. Ayodeji, (2011) conducted the study on identifying the reasons and consequences of building collapse in Nigeria on the basis of historical data from 1974 to 2006. Wherein the use of poor quality of construction material was highlighted as a major cause. The study considered sixty cases of building collapses in Nigeria. Thirty-one out of them were found to have collapsed due to poor quality material and workmanship i.e., around 52%. The study elaborated that these were twenty-five private and six public buildings respectively. The study recommended that stringent quality control practices should be in place to have a check on the quality of material. It was also suggested that the incentives to contractors and other construction staff be enhanced so that the use of sub-standard quality materials can be discouraged.

Oseghale, Ikpo and Ayaji, (2015) cite multiple authors who have raised concern over the utilization of sub-standard material in construction projects. While Hall (1984) termed it as “faulty material”, Ogunsemi (2002), Folagbade (2002) and Olusola et al, (2011) avow that the employment of substandard building materials has been a major cause of building collapses in Nigeria.

Poor quality of workmanship and maintenance culture

Poor quality of workmanship has been highlighted as one of the prominent reasons for building collapses in Nigeria in the research conducted by Oke, (2009). It was proclaimed in the study that the quality of workmanship in the Nigerian construction industry is disappointing. Most of the construction is undertaken by amateur local contractors who possess inadequate craftsmanship skills. The research concluded a significant positive relationship between the state of workmanship and the incidences of building collapse in Nigeria and prescribed the employment of skilled workers in the Nigerian construction industry.

These findings were confirmed by Shittu et al., (2013) who also conducted in the context of the Nigerian construction industry. Shittu et al., (2013) cite Wai Kiong & Sui Pheng (2005) who avow that in most cases of buildings collapse, the human errors are related to the forgetfulness and recklessness while 30% of building failures can be attributed to insufficient skills and knowledge of the contractors and staff occur because the contractor wanted them to occur. The research identified eight factors that cause poor workmanship among which:

  • lack of proper funding and inapt construction equipment were the leading causes.
  • Followed by a deficit of experience and skills among the construction staff,
  • interrupted communication flow in the system,
  • bad weather,
  • constraints related to time,
  • inadequate project management and,
  • the lack of clarity of subcontractor’s role.

The research recommended enhancing construction budgets and supervision besides imparting better training to the construction staff.

Context from the Kenyan construction industry

In the context of Kenyan construction industry, Kuta and Nyaanga, (2014) conducted the research to investigate the relationship between the proficiency and skills of the contractors and the quality of building construction. The research acknowledged that workmanship has significant impact on the quality, cost and timeliness of the building projects. The research identified high labour turnover in the industry due to seasonal nature of the industry as well as the existence of unfavourable working conditions. Kuta and Nyaanga, (2014) deduced from their research multiple factors of poor workmanship including that high numbers of engineers in the industry are not registered with appropriate bodies thus their competence cannot be gauged. The research also put forward that contractors sometimes outsource the construction process through bidding when they are incompetent to execute it. Also, the research laid emphasis upon the recruitment of educated staff and to impart adequate induction training before workers are actually made to work on the construction sites to reduce the incidences of substandard building construction.

References

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