I decided to use a satirical approach in writing this article because I feel that’s the best way to address the Anyhowness that exists in the building industry. It’s almost like, if your building doesn’t collapse it’s simply because the odds were in your favour. Landlord, approval agency, built environment professionals but especially building owners seem to all have a part ongoing shenanigans and I’ve made attempts to address the role these guys play in the Collapse making use of a single narrative.

I’ve also made feeble attempts to include humour but whether or not you find it so, I’m hoping that the message is clear to you that our Anyhow attitude building, – just like in basically every other area of our lives, be it environment or health – might one day be our ruin if we don’t do something about it.

So your younger brother has won the House of Representative Elections for your state. It means your twenty thousand naira investment to his campaign will not be in vain. In fact, he has assured you that he won’t forget you all through his stay in in the Green Chambers and he has proved his promise by sending a N40m token for upkeep.

After taking care of one or two things, it remains about N35m and that’s when you remember that you want to build. Your land, a family inheritance at Lagos Island has been lying fallow and finally you can start something on it.

This is where I’d like to help.

Architectural Design

First of all, you’d need a building design. That shouldn’t be hard to find as you can easily meet your Landlord to hook you up with an ‘engineer’ that’d produce the design. If the ‘engineer’ takes more than 3 days to do it, replace him and don’t pay. It means he’s not good at his job. And if he asks for more than N25,000, set Boys on him! You can’t be dealing with dishonest people. It doesn’t matter if the design isn’t functional or safe as long as he delivers in 3 days; he is a professional.

It’s okay if you later find out that he’s actually an OND Elect-Elect holder but don’t try to overthink it. It’s possible Education reforms would have accommodated an architectural syllabus in their course of study. But if not sef, who actually needs to go to school to learn to draw?

But whatever you do, don’t meet a licensed architect. Is it not just do draw lines with AutoCAD? You’d have done it yourself if not your son spoilt the laptop you bought for him. Don’t allow them chop your money.

Building Drawing Approval

Unlike the house your brother built in the village without any wahala, here in Lagos, a stamp from a licensed architect is needed for drawings to be approved by the Town Planning Office. Engineer says he doesn’t even know how the stamp looks like so another option would need to be considered. It’s annoying, I know, but trust me, if there’s a way to avoid this step, I’d tell you. You have to follow through with this.

You’d need to find someone to stamp for you. If you make the right calls, you’d find them. The normal price is N5000 (it might have gone up due to recession, but still can’t go beyond N7500). After that, you’d take the stamped drawings to the Planning office.

The usual period is about 8 weeks, but who has time for that? 8 weeks you can use to take your building to roof level? No na. You need to ‘fastrack’ the process. There’s always someone at the office willing to help, just find the person. I don’t need to tell you how to go about it.

Site Activities

Don’t let anybody deceive you, anybody can be a contractor, even you. Don’t listen to anybody that wants you to get a professional Builder, those ones don’t like you, they are just after your money – your hard earned money.

Use Direct Labour. Be the contractor, that way, no one will extort you. Go to Obalende, and you’d see masons, Carpenter all of them. Hire tipper and carry all of them to site – you don get workers be dat. Don’t pay them more than N1500 a day. All you need to do is shine your eyes and you’d be fine.

Go to site and start work, there’s no time again. You must roof before your Landlord returns from village. No need to bother yourself with soil test, or to hire structure engineer to make calculations and do drawings based on the soil capacity that has been gotten through the soil engineers findings.. Like I said, they all want to chop your money. They are Greedy people, all of them!

You’d have to settle Omo Onile sha. Agbero, Police— It’s in the Constitution. Set aside N100k for everything. I know, it’s much but you really don’t want anybody disturbing you when you finally start.

Since you’ve decided to do a mixed use building (shops on ground floor, and your house and other rentable flats on the first and second floor), you’d actually need a raft or pile foundation – maybe both because of the location. But it doesn’t matter. When you start digging and you see water sipping from the ground, ignore it. If it gets worse, hire pumping machine and suck it out, nothing will happen. Is it not me that’s telling you?

Even if the rain falls again and the entire site becomes so swampy to the point that the foundation starts to sink, shock it with wood, it should stabilize it but whatever you do, don’t hire any professional as they’d chop your money. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Remember the other building where it seemed like they cast the structural members before laying blocks? A proper frame structure? Don’t do it like that. It’s as if those people don’t know how expensive cement and gravel is in the market. This is how you’d do it instead, that block you made, the one where you used one cement to make 65 blocks, use it to support the structure too. It’s called composite structure. It will still stand, is it not just two storeys?

You know what, forget the original plan engineer did with two storeys. We’re adding an extra floor for anything – it might be a school sef (keep your mind open). The land cannot waste.

When you’re getting materials for building, whether for hardcore or iron bars, find a building that has been demolished and collect from there. It’s cheap. For parts of the building that requires 8mm rebars, use 6mm. It it requires 12mm, settle for 8mm. It’s the same thing. And ask for the one that’s cheapest too, don’t worry about quality, all that’s important is saving money.

if your workers need one bag of cement to do a proper concrete mix, give them half, we can’t have them wasting cement. They need to learn to manage. For concrete slabs that needs to be cast in 2-way, make them do it one way. The slab should take up to 21 days to cure properly, but where is the time? After 4 days, continue work on the slab. And hope you’re not considering getting proper metal scaffolding for the site? Or even bamboo? I can link you with one Baba that’d give you good wood (not that strong but it’s okay) and you can use it for scaffolding and also supporting uncured concrete slab.

Parts of the building (like balcony and the likes might collapse along the way due to the poor concrete mix) but don’t trouble yourself. If anyone gets injured in the process, buy him Panadol Extra. Let him take it with Gala and La Casera and tell him to go home for the day. He’d be grateful to you. Kindness will not kill you this my friend.

Well, it’s possible that you might resume work at your site one day and find out that it’s like it’s tipping to one side. Even though that’s a scary sign and in normal situations, construction should be stopped immediately and the root cause be ascertained and dealt with before works can continue, you won’t do that. You know why? It’s because you don’t have time. Remember Landlord is returning soon and he must know you’re no longer his mate.

This is what you’d do, again just shock it. Use two strong woods (that type I recommended) to hold it in place. After a while, it might become straight. It’s unlikely sha, but you’d still be fine.

But the time you get to second storey, you’d should begin seeing cracks on the walls coming from the foundation up. Ignore them! In fact, that’s the perfect time to start German Floor and plastering. Once you plaster over them, they should go away, hopefully.

In no time, you’ll have your building complete. Roof it with the same wood from Baba. Cover it up with Asbestos board (forget about the health hazards they said it brings, your blood is strong!). Add windows, door, all low quality stuff. No need to waste money on good quality that will last long, it’s not as if we’re living forever.

Finishes

Start finishes. Get the worst possible colour combinations and tiles for your home (green and red is perfect). Use he lowest quality PVC ceiling (the type that responds best to fire). Put fine interlocking for the surrounding.

You should have started seeing water sip out from various points in the site because you didn’t put damp proof membrane to protect it. But again, it doesn’t matter, maybe it will go away after a while, maybe.

Building Use

Do house warming, invite all your Village people. It doesn’t matter if the building isn’t structurally stable enough to carry even just your family members talk more of your whole extended family including your Landlord 6 children and grandchildren. Host them anyway and enjoy yourself, you finally have a place to call your home.

It won’t take long before people rush all the shops on the ground floor. When they do, Increase the rent every month until they can’t pay. Then chase them away, another set will come. Your property is only for high quality people.

Remember that extra floor, convert it to a school, just primary school with not too many, 40 pupils minus teachers is okay. Give someone to manage it.

Everything is soft now. But it’s okay to consider adding an extra floor – just a pentfloor. It can’t hurt na, can it? You and your family can’t be living with the tenants na. Besides, the floor won’t take all the floor space – just parts of it. And you can put up the flat for rent.

Do it. Complete it. Enjoy it for 3 years.

Return from office one weekday only to see crowd on your street, shoutings, cries, angry stares at you…your building has collapsed, and your wife and two of your children are trapped along with the others.

Ezekiel Bassey
Bassey Ezekiel is an Architect with a load of passion for Urban Design and the Environment !