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General News of Thursday, 15 November 2012

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GIA advocates for building legislation

The Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) has called for the promulgation of laws to regulate the auditing, inspection and certification of new buildings by qualified engineers and safety personnel.

The GIA said the local municipal or metropolitan assemblies should also be mandated to issue a habitation certificate, which should be is acceptable to the National Insurance Commission, prior to the opening of the facility to the public.

Mr. Adotei Brown, President of the GIA, said this at a press briefing in Accra to express the views of the GIA on the Achimota Melcom Shopping Mall disaster.

He said the audit should include certification as to whether or not the building was being put to use as designed and applied for, whether it met the structural engineering requirements, fire certification and was prepared enough for emergencies among others.

Mr. Brown described the collapse of the Melcom Shopping Mall last Wednesday November 7th as an event that could have been avoided if the necessary controls had been applied.

He said the GIA and the Ghana Institution of Engineers had visited the site of the collapsed building, and initial evidence show of a structural failure, “we will leave the Structural and Geo-technical Engineers to render their detailed observations and findings, after due scientific investigations."

Mr Brown said "as Architects, we are and should usually be the initiators and coordinators of projects of this nature and size, as required by Article 6 of the Building Regulations right through implementation.”

We consider it imperative to be involved in the issues which we believe should be addressed urgently if public safety in buildings should be improved.

Mr. Brown said whilst the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies are in charge of enforcing that buildings are put up in compliance with laid down regulations, they are logistically constrained.

"Their capacity to follow the numerous projects springing up all over the country is therefore totally inadequate," he said.

The GIA President said "the failure of this project shows that private developers may not always use the requisite professionals for their projects."

He said it was unfortunate that real estate developers in the country did not need to have architects and structural engineers to be part of their projects "and the existing laws therefore allow them to do all sorts of low quality projects that eventually puts the public at risk".

Mr. Brown recommended that the Assemblies must ensure that laid down processes for the acquisition of property for public use were adhered to. "This should be extended to all buildings and that should be certified for habitation before granting the public access".

He said a threshold should also be set up to have a mandatory involvement of only architects and engineers, duly registered and in good standing, to projects being designed and constructed, which were beyond single residential properties, or single storey-horizontal extensions.

"We also need to establish something that regulates and assures the quality of personnel of building contractors and that, regular training is given to their trades men."

Mr. Brown said this might be a body or institution separated from the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, where the public is assured that they can seek redress, "if they suspect shoddy work".

It is the fervent the hope of the GIA that any committee set up to investigate the unfortunate incident will have a representation of competent and experienced building professionals, in order to get the maximum input from the findings, said Mr. Brown.

He also expressed the hope that the recommendations of any investigative body would be duly acted upon.

A six-store building housing the Achimota Melcom Shopping Mall collapsed on Wednesday, November 7 killing 14 people and injuring about 78 people.

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