Collapsed Building: Engineer Bares Mind

An Accra-based building engineer, Rashat Peregrino-Brimah has expressed concern about the quality of structures being put up in the name of houses in some parts of the country. Considering the quality of the Melcom-rented building, which collapsed last Wednesday, he said investigations would reveal a number of technical challenges. Recalling the cracks observed by some workers of the retail shop shortly before it collapsed, he said “it should have pricked the conscience of someone to take immediate action.” Poor quality materials could have been used in the construction of the building, he noted, explaining that “a soil test must precede the construction of buildings more so when they are of the size of the collapsed structure. A soil engineer must first test the soil to determine what kind of foundation to use and the size. You cannot just use any foundation for any building. A calculation of the size of foundation and its size must precede the actual construction,” he said. Continuing, he said maybe a traditional foundation was used for the building and that could have led to the disaster. “A foundation transmits the load soil and if it is weak and unable to do what it is supposed to do, the building would definitely collapse,” he said. “When the cracks appeared a flat glass could have been put between the openings and left there for a while. The fall of the glass would have meant that a settlement or movement was taking place in the foundation and that was adequate warning for appropriate action to be taken. It also means that the bearing capacity of the foundation is very low,” he said. “Many people just go into the construction industry as builders with little or no understanding of the role of the structural engineer whose calculation of the quantity of iron roads to be used in a particular building is overlooked at the peril of human lives.” In spite of the foregone, he said “buildings are sprouting up with little or no regards to best and acceptable practices.” A number of people have also taken exception to the usual “stop work” marks on buildings, which according to them, never stop the work anyway. They attributed the collapse to marginalization of building standards and corruption in society. In a related development, the Mayor of Accra, Alfred Oko Vanderpuye stated that what he really said in the wake of the disaster was that should the disaster be attributed to his negligence he would resign. This is in contrast to an earlier report in which he was quoted to have stated that he would resign if it was established that the building was put up without a permit.