Taking shortcuts leads to unsafe buildings

05 October 2017

Ham Shopping Centre in Kampala collapsed.

A key objective in our role as architects and engineers is to make sure that the buildings we design are safe for their occupants. As international architects that have taken root in East Africa, we often notice that the standards of building materials that end up in Africa are amongst the lowest in the world. 

Understandably cost is a factor that people consider when erecting structures, but minimising construction costs should not jeopardise the safety of buildings. 

The recent tragedies at Grenfell Tower in London and Dubai’s Torch Tower are the latest examples of building catastrophes that have led to avoidable loss of life and property for both occupants and owners because someone did not adequately look into ensuring that these buildings were properly and safely designed before they were occupied. 

All too often I am shocked when I walk into a building in Uganda or Kenya to see that a fire escape has been blocked off, or is sometimes used as additional rental space.

Looking into recent events in East Africa like the Kware Building collapse in Nairobi in June this year and countless buildings that we have seen collapse in our region in recent years, the FBW Group has almost always found that the root cause of these tragedies came down to shoddy building and someone trying to cut corners. 

In the twenty-plus years FBW has been operational in Uganda, we have not had a single case of cracking in any of our buildings that has needed major repair, let alone collapsing. The MotorCare head office that we designed along Jinja Road was completed in 2001, but still looks almost as good as new today.

As architects and engineers, we would not be doing our jobs if we did not challenge our clients into thinking through the safety of the buildings they are planning and coming up with the best possible solutions for their needs.

So the next time you are thinking about building, keep in mind that there are certain things you should not compromise, otherwise you might be putting yourself and your people at risk

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