- Terrifying cracks, stagnant pools of water in homes
Many houses fail integrity test –Structural engineer
Beyond the exclusive façade of the Victoria Garden City (VGC), the high-brow residential estate located on the bourgeoning Lekki axis of Lagos State, are alarming numbers of sinking duplexes and other buildings.
The structures, which have become death traps, perching on well-tended courts, have thrown residents of the exquisite city into panic; and many occupants have either vacated their apartments, put them up for sale or demolished distressed structures for reconstruction.
Our correspondent, who visited the City, observed that the first turn to the right, after VGC’ security point, reveals Road 12. Situated conspicuously off Road Two and opposite the lush Recreation Park, a traffic sign at its entry point announces that trucks above 10 tons are not allowed passage.
To the unsuspecting visitor, the import of the warning may not be fully understood. But as one moves away from the welcoming coziness of the serene estate, into Road 12, one is confronted with startling reality.
Evidence of numerous distressed houses, abandoned apartments, sinking mansions surrounded by stagnant pools of water, and buildings with terrifying cracked walls are all too glaring. On the same street, about three buildings had been demolished apparently because they had sunk beyond the level of redemption.
On Plot 47, a domestic worker, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, explained that the owner of, the property, simply identified as ‘Alhaji’, had to relocate to a safer property on Road 4.
“But the Alhaji is desperately looking for a buyer for his abandoned palatial building on Road 12,” the worker added.
Our correspondent observed that the bold inscription, ‘For Sale’, was also seen hanging on many gates of several other plots/houses, even as their owners were not available to speak. However, there were also depressions and indiscriminate sinking as a result of stress on roads paved with stones.
Some of the properties affected include plots 46 and 16B, which have long cracked walls; plots 12, 17A, 16A are demolished; Plots 16B, 16E, 48B showed signs of tilting and sinking structures while some of the properties already marked for sale include plots 12B, 36B, 56B; over five plots with sinking house have been fallowed.
Back in the 90s, HFP Engineering got the nod from the Lagos State Government to show-case a model estate on what used to be a mangrove swamp that was highly infested by dangerous snakes and other reptiles. The Israeli construction giants turned the swampy terrain into the first gated exquisite residential area.
With its aesthetic boulevards, good and unexposed drainage systems, excellent security facilities and lush recreation parks, VGC became the prowling ground for the affluent. The estate boast of luxury apartments which are mainly duplexes, located on beautiful & well-landscaped streets. The success of the project opened the flood gates for other investors who now see the area as a haven for real estate investments.
Typical property price in VGC shows that land costs about N230,000 per square meter while rental fee for a three bedroom duplex in the estate goes for N2.5million to N3 million. The rental fee for four bedroom duplex is between N2.8 to N4 million; and an outright buy, N75 million to N85 million.
To rent a five bedroom duplex, one needs to cough out N3.3million per annum and N195 million to N280 million for outright purchase, depending on the size of the land/compound.
But in spite of VGC’s envious environmental beauty and amenities such excellent security, waste management, good road network, good school and robust business facilities, the estate has become notorious for flood related issues which has hindered both vehicular and human traffic and had devastating effects on resident and properties.
We learnt that Road 12 is one of the worst affected by flood waters. According to a domestic staff, whenever there is a down pour, the road becomes a ‘lake’ and virtually every compound is flooded. To provide emergency relief, the residents installed a huge water pumping machine to rid the road of flooding.
An architect on site told this medium in camera that many residents had to abandon their palatial mansions when they could no longer risk living in sinking and tilting houses some of which had developed dangerous cracks because they were apparently built on unsettled land.
He said: “What you see as VGC today used to be a dreaded mangrove swamp before it was reclaimed and turned to what it is today. Usually after reclamation, the soil should be allowed to settle properly before any structure can be constructed on it.”
He added: “The sinking and collapsing buildings are evidence that the soil was not allowed to settle long enough and proper building standards followed after reclamation.”
A building engineer, Sarbinto Adeleke, explained that contrary to popular belief, a sand-filled soil does not need up to 10 years to compact.
“What is required is to allow for self-compaction by applying water and then a 20-ton compacting machine to further compact the reclaimed land,” he said.
He, however, observed that the use of such compactor in an area like VGC could pose serious threat to other houses in the vicinity.
“You need to be mindful of other peoples’ buildings also, otherwise during moment of compaction, the vibration is capable of pulling down the houses in the immediate neighbourhood.
According to him, pile foundation needs to be done for a commercial building while raft foundation with good foreign reinforcement would be enough in the case of a residential house. “Where foreign re-enforcement is not possible, it has to be well re-enforced. Your concrete has to be 25 Newton (standard mix), and the material to be used has to be carefully selected such as Beggar sharp sand that is filtered.
The problem is that not all builders conform to quality and these standards. In Nigeria, some clients don’t care about quality; what they are after is just to see their building come up,” he explained.
He added that one of the things that need to be checked out to avoid sinking, tilting and house developing cracks in VGC is the counter balance between road level and compound level.
His words: “Really soil settles; but did you check their invert level? What is the difference between the road level and their compound level? Those are the things. If your building is lower than the road level, you’ll have flood problem; it needs to be raised.
“Wherever there is deflection or a building tilting or caving in, it also depends on the quality of material. With time, lower level of concrete will definitely give up and you will see cracks. Cracks develop as a result movement, some building will have movement and still remain, but if your material is not good, you will see cracks,” he explained.
Corroborating, Jude Ogulala, a real estate practitioner, emphasised that the distressed buildings were built on faulty foundations. “You need to carry out soil test for quality and value first, before you can know the kind of foundation you can do, otherwise you do rubbish.”
He added: “If it is a hydraulic sand-filling, you need to wait a period of one or two years in a worst case scenario. If it is not hydraulic; you can be talking of more years depending on the structure you want to build, but definitely not 10 years.
Last Wednesday (September 13), the Lagos State Building Control Agency, an arm of the state Ministry of Physical Planning, was contacted to clarify whether relevant building approvals were obtained before the affected houses in VGC were built. Our correspondent wanted to know the result of the soil texture in the terrain and to what extent this was put into consideration before construction was done. Our correspondent also wanted to know if the Lagos State government is aware of the apparent integrity failure of some of the buildings in VGC and whether there are efforts to carry out wholesome integrity test for buildings in the exclusive estate.
A staff in the agency’s Public Relations Office told our correspondent that the management of VGC estate would not allow any building to be erected in the estate without an approved plan from the relevant Lagos State agency.
The officer, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, also explained that a team of the state Building Control Agency has gone on a fact-finding visit to and will respond to the questions above. However, at the time of going to press, no response came even after several phone calls to the agency’s Public Relations Unit.