Technical factors that affect building construction and a building collapse

By Priya Chetty on February 5, 2020

Quality is an important component of the building construction industry (Mane and Patil, 2015; Emiedafe, 2017). This article discusses the key technical factors which affect the building construction quality that result in building collapse. Construction plays a key role in the development of an economy due to its role in infrastructure planning. (OECD, 2008). There are three main types of the construction industry:

  • Building construction industry: Consists of general contractors and builders who are engaged in residential, industrial, or commercial construction.
  • Heavy construction industry: Includes contractors who are engaged in heavy construction such as railroads, highways, bridges, or streets.
  • Special trade construction industry: Consists of contractors who work on specialized things like electrical work, or plumbing (NASA, 2019).

There are several quality risk factors associated with a building construction such as (Rustom and Amer, 2003):

  • fault in design
  • lack of communication
  • wrongful selection of designer, equipment and material
  • financial misappropriation
  • fault in project selection
  • unskilled sub-contractors,
  • poor planning
Risk factors for building construction projects
Figure 1: Risk factors for building construction projects

They often lead to accidents and loss (Davidkumar and Kathirvel, 2015; Oke, Dlamini and Aigbavboa, 2017).

Approval of technically deficient structural drawing

There are various technical factors that have an impact on the building quality of a project. If the technically deficient structural drawing is approved without proper evaluation, then it will have an adverse effect on the structural quality of the building. Sometimes it happens that structural drawing gets approved on the basis of cost and not on the value of work. Hence it is imperative that efficient management of quality must be guaranteed right from the conceptual-design phase of the project (Oyedele, Jaiyeoba and Fadeyi, 2012).

Furthermore, Tope Femi Lagos (2014) also highlighted the effects of faulty design and construction on building maintenance. He explicated that there should be a thorough review of the design before ultimately commending the structural drawing for construction. In addition to this, maintenance professional should not be ignored in the design phase of the project. And above all, adroit professionals must be engaged in sketching of the plan of the project.

In the same year, Aras et al. (2016) advocated that when a technically defective structural design is approved, a building fails to perform its intended functions. The failure in design at the early stage would lead to insufficiencies in the subsequent phase after the building construction. The users of the building as well the environment of the building get affected by the error in design. It has been found that defective design can happen due to a rise in the cost of maintenance. However, inadequate structural design such as:

  • the lesser amount of size of the ground work,
  • a number of columns,
  • the locality of the structure,
  • the dimension of the reinforcement block and,
  • combination of the concrete can fetch the major setback to a building.

With the inadequate structural plan, the building is dangerous to function anymore (Basirat et al., 2016).

Nigerian perspective

A year later, Waziri (2016) presented the Nigerian perspective stating that design and construction defects have bearing on the residential building maintenance. He was of the opinion that imperfections occurring from structural drawing and building construction are accepted to have considerable effects on the level of upkeep during habitation of structures. This often transforms into high costs instigating displeasure among customers. He further added that despite the technological advancement, residential constructions still undergo imperfections occasioning from insufficient design and erection making them susceptible to unexpected upkeep all through their life cycle.

Alteration of approved or existing drawings of the building

Kioko (2014) presented their opinion about building failure in Africa which is an earthquake-prone area. He pointed out that the instances of failure of building and the resultant breakdown of structures in Kenya had touched an upsetting phase in the past decade. Furthermore, reporting distorted structures in the nation was equivalent to flood tragedy, tremor and aeroplane clash considering the loss of life and devastation of possessions in diverse parts of the nation. He was of the view that usually, building construction failures happen as a result of usage of:

  • sub-standard construction materials,
  • meagre workmanship by suppliers,
  • inept contractors,
  • defective building methodology,
  • dense rainstorm,
  • improper supervision,
  • poor assessment & observation,
  • organizational flaws and,
  • substandard design,
  • illegal transformation and modifications.

Chendo & Obi (2015) carried out their study in the major cities of Nigeria like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt and found out that these areas are prone to a frequent collapse of a building. Alteration of approved drawings was found to be one of the prominent factors responsible for building collapse among other factors such as an absence of proper supervision of projects, carelessness, omission, use of substandard materials. They explicated that non-adherence to approved building plans results in such disruptions. Builders sometimes make an illegal amendment to the drawings which are already approved. At times, a building initially identified to go through concreting is altered to pre-cast procedures. Emigrant suppliers tend to assemble the constituents in a foreign country and ship to Nigeria.

American perspective

An American perspective was presented by Wardhana et al. (2003) stating that demolition and renovation made in the buildings are fundamental reasons for the collapse of a building. They pointed out that accidental collapse occurs when building construction is done in deviation of the intended plan. Inadequate shoring and impact of a dozer on a beam are some of the problems that might arise due to the alteration made in the existing structure of the building. Fagbenle & Oluwunmi (2010) advocated that some of the cases of building collapses are also an outcome of lack of knowledge on the part of designers and illegal transformation of buildings.

Building construction without approved drawings

Fagbenle & Oluwunmi (2010) examined the incidents of a building collapse in Nigeria by concentrating on the six key states from each of the six geo-political areas of the country. The study revealed that majority of the contractors evaded the sanction before beginning the building construction works. Alike tendencies were also witnessed in the case of the customers, where a majority of them neglected to secure building sanction before the beginning of building construction.

Tope Femi Lagos (2014) carried out a quantitative study by involving 30 architects, 20 builders and 25 civil engineers. There were 2 parts of the questionnaire. The second part focused on the flaws instigated by defective construction while the first part enquired about the background of the respondents. The study pointed out that when buildings are being erected without approved designs in remote and rural areas, they may sometime result in collapse and building failure.

Building collapses in Nigeria

Basirat et al. (2016) pointed out that lives in Nigeria have been threatened by the collapses due to building construction without approved designs. Buildings are being erected without paying attention to some aspects and instructions which are obligatory to put in place before any construction work takes place. A building can collapse if it is erected without approved drawings or even no drawings at all. It also happens when the drawings are not efficiently scrutinized by competent professionals or pertinent authorities. Several errors can creep in and can ultimately result in a building collapse if the construction takes place without structural drawings.

Non-compliance with specifications and regulations resulting in building collapse

Among all the above-mentioned reasons for building collapse and failure, non-compliance with specifications and regulations is found to be one of the noticeable reasons. When contractors ignore the building regulations, they take the risk of a building collapse. This is because Building Regulation Act signifies all the rules that associate precisely with the control of the construction of structures (Fagbenle and Oluwunmi, 2010). However, Fagbenle & Oluwunmi (2010) also asserted that a prevailing regulation is worthless devoid of supporting with it a mechanism to guarantee compliance. An average civilian does not observe a law that is not obligatory.

In the same year, Tope Femi Lagos (2014) highlighted that several defects in the buildings occur due to non-compliance with the specification by the civil engineers. Moreover, he also observed that the non-compliance with appropriate construction codes and building standards are also made by the builders which are evident from the construction defects. In addition to this, Tope Femi Lagos (2014) stated that a very good construction project lays down all the processes that should be chased to evade erroneous blunder during the building of a project. Such stipulations imparted by the designer to the worker state all the approaches and types of workmanship to be hired throughout the building of a project. However, some contractor chooses to use their specific experience as an alternative to the specification offered.

Building collapses in Kenya and Nigeria

In the subsequent year, Chendo & Obi (2015) talked about the non-compliance of the existing laws in Nigeria averring that a four-storey building under construction at Agbama Estate, Unuahia collapsed. This was because of non-adherence to building Regulation that authorizes only two floors in the area. They, therefore, recommended that all construction plans presented by any designer for sanction must fulfil with Nigeria’s novel construction code and indigenous bye-laws and guidelines.

Talking about Kenyan perspective, Kioko (2014) explicated that dearth of African code of practice can also be an aspect that needs contemplation. Noncompliance with stipulations or criteria by designers and contractors result in building collapses. He further pointed out that in order to lessen the occurrences of building collapse in any nation, the nation-wide society of engineers and other administrative organisations should strive on availing a rule of performing the task which will match up with the native supplies used in a specific region. Moreover, supervision of the project should also be made by the qualified engineer and any kind of fraud. Meagre governance or pitiable construction supplies that do not meet the mandatory standards of a building should be avoided.

Compliance with government regulations is critical in managing quality  

The role played by the construction industry in social and economic development of an economy amplifies its need to maintain quality in construction. Failure to adhere to strict regulations and quality parameters creates a risk of wastage of resources and the occurrence of accidents. Although general risks are hard to control. Technical factors like:

  • approval of technically deficient structural drawing,
  • alteration in the approved drawing,
  • building a project without proper approval by the government and customers and,
  • non-compliance with the specified or existing laws could be controlled.

Management of these factors tend to reduce the chances of accidents and wastage of resources, and hence would bring in the optimal usage of resources along with safety. Thus, quality management of a building construction project would maximize the welfare of people along with creating the opportunity of sustainable development.


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