The Guardian (Nigeria)
Soft loans, functional designs will reduce housing cost, says Said
Mrs. Adenike Said is the chairperson, Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria ( APWBN). In this interview with VICTOR GBONEGUN, she spoke on why states should domesticate national building code and ways to boost low- cost housing project usi
BRecently, we have seen a rise in building collapse in construction sites. How is your association responding to this issue and how best can it be addressed? UILDING collapse has been a sad menace in Nigeria of which the causes have been identified and solutions are now in place. The self- built syndrome, poor knowledge of construction, substandard materials, lack of knowledge of the terrain and quest for profit/ social benefits are contributory factors to building collapse.
Now, the government has set up necessary machinery to eliminate incessant collapse. Relevant professional bodies are also taking administrative and technological efforts to enlighten and train those in the field.
It’s worthy of note that when the building code is adopted by states, it will curb menace of building collapse. It is very apt now that the builders’ documents are enshrined in building regulations in states and implemented to stem the pace of collapse in our society.
The programme of work, quality management plan, health and safety plan, which are all documents, prepared by builders should be monitored for compliance.
The Association of Professional Women builder in Nigeria ( APWBN) in collaboration with other professionals in the built environment have been organising seminars to create awareness and stop collapse of buildings that is ravaging the country.
APWBN is passionate about ensuring that building construction in Nigeria is standardised through regular advocacy. The attention of Standard Organisation of Nigeria ( SON) has been drawn to the issue of sub- standard building materials in the market.
To avoid dangerous calamity in terms of loss of lives and properties, we have expressed worries on sub- standard reinforcements, planks and sandcrete blocks.
Builders should always be engaged in construction sites for management of the construction process and implemention of all stated plans. These are the kind of public awareness we are creating in the association. Any professional and contractors found liable in any collapse should be prosecuted and punished accordingly.
There are worries about housing shortfall, especially in the affordable supply category. What is the best approach to solving deficit in housing supply and ensure affordability?
The shortfall in housing can be effectively tackled by the government and private recognised developers. However, land and infrastructures have to be provided by government. Also soft loans to willing societies and use of locally sourced materials too are needed.
Building for our needs should be the ultimate and not for socio- aesthetic reasons. Most Nigerians have a high taste but their resources cannot provide housing for them. Having big houses is getting out of fashion hence, functional housing should be designed to reduce cost of construction and subsequently ease the shortfall in housing stock being experienced now. Functionalism in building is the doctrine that the form of a building should be determined by practical considerations such as use, material, and structure, as distinct from the attitude that plan and structure must conform to a preconceived picture in the designer’s mind. I want us to realise that there are no low cost materials in Nigeria today, except we go back to basis by encouraging researches into local building materials that will be affordable to low income earners. The Nigerian Institute Building is seriously working on this through its current council led by the President, Mr. Kunle Awobodu.
Today, the cost of building materials is rising, for example cement and reinforcement are skyrocketing to about N4, 000/ per bag and N500, 000/ per ton respectively.
Government housing policy should be reviewed as soon as possible to address the living conditions of low- income earners. This is due to the fact that the country is over dependent on imported building materials and foreign exchange is very high. We should look inwards now in order to mitigate the challenges faced by our everincreasing population. The Federal Government should utilise the local building materials developed in the past for the ongoing low cost housing projects in the country. Also, monitoring of the existing buildings is very important to avoid sudden collapse, in order to address some of the major defects and elongate the life span of such buildings.
Despite the volume of buildings being constructed in Nigerian, many trained builders are complaining of unemployment and joblessness. Why is there inadequate involvement of professionals by the government in the real estate sector?
Employment of builders is ongoing all over the country in various establishments but still very low. The reason is not far fetched; majority of real estate developers focus on the profitability in housing development rather than the standard and quality of the building products being produced, they are penny- wise pound- foolish.
A building that is expected to last for about 50years, when it is handled by non- professionals may not last up to 20- years before it collapses or there will be appreciable increase in they early maintenance cost thereby reducing the returns on the investment.
There are adequate government policies and laws in place to control building construction in Nigeria but some of the developers believe that they are smarter or higher than constituted authorities in Nigeria and engage quacks.
In accordance with Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning law, Cap 12. of 2019 with its regulations, no building construction must commence without having builders and other relevant professionals. In fact, other states are emulating Lagos state in this regard. With the awareness now, it is believed that both professional builders and trained vital skills in the building trades will be engaged.
We believe that very soon builders will have more than enough construction works to handle after the current crusade by APWBN and Nigerian Institute of Building has spread to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Builders should just get prepared with relevant training needs and knowledge that will be required in the 21st century.
There is dearth of well- trained artisans in the building construction industry in Nigeria to the extent that migrant artisans fill job opportunities. What is your Association of Professional Women builder in Nigeria ( APWBN) doing in the training artisans and tradesmen?
The involvement of the female gender in the construction sector has not been remarkable since time immemorial; globally because it is believed that the building profession is an exclusive area for males. It was not until around the 70’ s in the United Kingdom that the involvement of women started. Now the awareness has spread but is still very low in the tropical Africa. In Nigeria the clear involvement started with the education of females in tertiary institutions across the country.
It is true that migrant artisans fill job opportunities in building sector of Nigeria as a result of lack of adequate hard and soft skills of our artisans and most youths, these days are conscious of quick money.
Now with the introduction of the National Vocational Qualification ( NVQ) in school’s curriculum, it has broadened the training of more tradesmen and artisans for Nigerian construction sector. The development has created opportunity for APWBN to have different building trades/ specialization where people develop expertise.
This has been yielding results as some of the trained personnel are already in employment with various organizations. The Association of Professional Women Builders of Nigeria is collaborating with other stakeholders in training of these artisans and ensuring that they are fixed up in construction firms.
Women are not too involved in the industry because the building profession is believed to be very hard and it demands strength to perform. Some women are also of the view that it may affect their home keeping, aspect of marriage and pregnancy. Additionally, family issues deter women from building career in the construction industry. For instance, some people are of the opinion that it may lead to having physically challenged or low syndrome babies.
The APWBN has highlighted positive approaches on effective role of women in the building sector through regular seminars, meetings, visits and awareness. The ( catch them young) scheme has been yielding results to promote the core objectives of APWBN. Some of the young students that we visited their schools to groom them, are now in universities studying building technology and hoping to join the fold of building professionals to practice in the nearest future.
How can the government and other stakeholders help women to overcome some of their limiting factors?
The government and stakeholders need to create positive awareness and incentives together with provision of employment or selfreliance support for women after training them. The trainers also need to form consortium while they could provide loans for the procurement of necessary tools needed to operate.
Construction organisations can help to resolve some of the myths around construction work by educat
Building for our needs should be the ultimate and not for socioaesthetic reasons. Most Nigerians have a high taste but their resources cannot provide housing for them. Having big houses is getting out of fashion hence, functional spaces should be designed to reduce cost of construction and subsequently ease the shortfall in housing stock being experienced now.
ing the public about the wide range of roles within the organisation.
When people think of construction workers, for instance, they might think of bricklayers/ masons and welders but not realising that it equally involves different skill sets of people such as, painters, project managers and quantity surveyors. It is also important to always showcase women working within construction organisations to the public particularly, young people in schools that women are just as capable of having successful careers within construction Industry as their male counterparts. For instance, in Nigerian building profession today, we have the likes of Mrs. Abolalanle Araba, Mrs. Aramide Adeyeye, Mrs. Angela Jagun and Mrs. Folashade Laja among others, who have made their marks in the construction industry. Our Association and Nigerian Institute of Building had celebrated many of such women in the past.
Technology is changing the phase of construction globally. What is APWBN doing to equip members with latest construction technology and improved methodology despite specialisation in different areas of building?
Building construction today is beyond brick and mortar hence, the need to update and train women in the latest construction technology. Women builders are encouraged to engage in training in new construction technologies like, Building Information Modeling ( BIM) and digital twins, use of collaborative software solutions and artificial intelligence. APWBN members are trained to have their hands on deck to ensure that they are familiar with the builders’ documents software developed by the Council of Registered Builder of Nigeria/ NIOB for relevance in the industry.