Possible causes of the 7-storey building collapse in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. 

Residents in Nigeria’s Oil City of Port-Harcourt gathered in large numbers to catch a glimpse of a 7-storey building collapse. The building came down just before the close of working hours on Friday. According to a source who witnessed the event; “The ground started vibrating and I saw the building collapsing into itself. Then dust filled everywhere and I couldn’t see anything.”


The structure:

The 7-storey building design is a hotel, and is also situated in a populated business district.

Responding to the incident:

Government emergency services were swift to respond to the scene. By mobilising ambulances and personnel to help rescue trapped people. More so, Julius Berger, a major building contractor deployed heavy equipment and technical experts to aide with Engineering know how. Other businesses like M.Saleh, a major distributor of heavy duty power generating machines deployed support equipment. While citizens brought jack hammer and other construction tools to help rescue people.


Possible cause of the collapse

  1. Foundation design: The major factor that could cause the building to collapse might be the foundation. The building collapsed under its own self weight, indicating foundation failure. Foundation failure in the mid-section is a possibility, because the building is tilting towards that direction. Punching shear in the foundation might be the possible failure technique.
  2. Ground Bearing capacity: The area within the vicinity of the proposed building is swampy. Building within the area requires a good amount of sand filing to achieve a desirable ground level. A soil test will reveal the ground bearing capacity, and will guide the engineer in choosing a foundation type. 
  3. Speed over quality: The building had been under construction for less than a year. The client could have put the workforce under intense pressure, achieving speed in construction at the detriment of quality. Signs of poor concrete curing time where evident in the structural members. 

Some important things to note:

  1. Cambodian type of construction: Cambodians are known for their swift construction approach following the 2009 construction boom across the country. Investors sought local contractors to manage different construction process. Example, two different local contractors handle block work and concreting. This type of construction approach is very effective, but can be detrimental when there is poor supervision from the investor. Local contractors can use substandard materials, which reduces the structural integrity of the building.
  2. Lack of Professional Input: In a bid to save cost, investors might omit some key professionals while procuring the project. The importance of Architects, Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineers should not be underestimated. More so, a professional consultant is necessary for a building project. The job of the consulting engineer is “the implementation of a well structured and managed project-life cycle through effective schedules based on well thought out project planning.” – Engr. Charles Akinyele Akindamyomi (ACEN President)


We are looking forward to the report from the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, and Association of Consulting Engineering in Nigeria. Who are currently investigating the cause of the collapse, and will release a detailed report soon.

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