By Technical Director, Rollo Reid
Latest reports about the Bangladesh building collapse announce that 800 people are now believed to have been killed by this terrible event.
The scale of this tragedy is enormous and my heart goes out to the families and friends of all those who lost their lives.
I feel particular sadness because building safe, strong structures is something I’m passionate about. It seems to me there are two main reasons why this tragedy occurred.
The first is because it appears that extra floors were added on top of the original and industrial companies were allowed to set up factory equipment in a structure that was only ever designed for commercial use, housing office workers and light equipment.
The extra weight of the additional floors, the heavy factory machines and power generators that were positioned on the roof all proved too much for the fabric of the building to bear, resulting in a catastrophic collapse.
The second reason this collapse was so disastrous is, I believe, because buildings in this part of the world tend to be constructed without a strong core framework made of either steel or concrete.
If this building had a strong framework there may have been damage due to the over-loading in some areas but the entire structure would not have collapsed and many people would have survived.
Economic pressures and, let’s face it, sometimes just pure greed, can make cutting corners and ignoring safety issues tempting for unscrupulous people. But the authorities must also take some of the blame it seems.
According to newspaper reports the building didn’t have an ‘occupation certificate’, something all buildings built in Bangladesh since 2008 should have. Inspectors are supposed to check that the buildings have been constructed to meet the original plans and that they are being used as they should be.
It seems this didn’t happen for the collapsed building and it appears that it’s not happening for many of the buildings in the region. If this is true it just isn’t good enough.
People rightly expect buildings to be a place of protection and safety. Once the integrity of structures is compromised it’s not just buildings that are at risk of collapse, it’s the very fabric of society.