Editor's Comment

Buildings must be safe

AMONG many matters that Zambia prides itself for is the construction boom. There is concern, however, that the quality of some of the structures is not as good as they seem.
This concern was heightened recently when it was revealed that some support columns of a business park in Lusaka’s central business district were virtually crumbling under the weight of the multi-storey building.
Many questions were asked about the quality of material used in putting up this building as well as the professionalism of those that supervised its construction and those that certified it suitable for habitation.
Most of these questions have not been adequately answered yet.
President Edgar Lungu has now also weighed in on the concerns, noting that “while we are witnessing some fantastic buildings being erected in the country, we are also being reminded that all that glitters is not gold”.
With the concern now also coming from the Head of State, we hope that answers will begin to flow faster.
More importantly, we hope for proactivity by those whose responsibility it is to ensure that buildings meet the expected standards.
The basic standard is that the buildings should be safe for use and that they must last for a reasonably long time, especially considering the huge financial investments that go with them.
As President Lungu said in Lusaka yesterday when officially opening the new headquarters of the ZEP-RE (PTA Reinsurance Company), buildings must stand the test of time. They must last a life time.
This goes for all kinds of buildings – private and public – such as schools, health facilities, office blocks, shopping malls and houses.
The challenge President Lungu gave the Engineering Institute of Zambia and the National Construction Council is a serious one. It must be heeded not by a mere nodding of heads, but by results on the ground.
It just does not make sense for a building to begin to have cracked walls, leaking roof, sagging columns and peeling paint just months after being certified ready for occupation.
It is in fact annoying that such should be happening right under the noses of experts, many of whom are actually generously remunerated.
Why is it that most buildings built in years just before and soon after Zambia’s political independence some 55 years ago are evidently more solid then some of those built more recently?
Let’s match the beauty of the modern architecture with the solidness of the structures.
Admittedly, most buildings measure up to the expectations, but it is the bad ones that are a concern and are tarnishing the images of the construction experts.
This being the case, these experts must make it their responsibility to be their brothers’ keepers. They must watch or monitor each other. This is not only for their own good, but also, and more importantly, for the good of those that use these buildings.
There have been times when Government officials, during inspections of public projects under construction, have discovered substandard buildings.
These officials are generally not experts, but some of the defects of buildings are so glaring that any layperson can tell that there is something seriously wrong with the construction.
The worry is why should it take a layperson to notice a defect when there are people well qualified, employed and paid to monitor and take corrective measures?
Surely, Zambia should not wait for a major catastrophe before cracking the whip on those that are failing the country.
This is not a matter that requires an indaba for solutions. Answers are already there. It is just a matter of implementing set regulations.

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