Burning Ghana to rebuild—An architect’s view on blazes in Ghana (2)

FireWe must state that the Ghana Institute of Architects has taken the lead in this one and completed a list of recommendations to be submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing towards the review of the National Building Regulations LI 1630.

The MWRWH has concluded the review of the National Building Code and we expect that these two key legislations would yield improved development control. The present list of exemptions has almost become a cultural practice and as mentioned even extended to Public Officers and big men.

I have seen a Public Officer building a 3-Storey structure without permit and even strangely by just referring his masons to “copy a building next to his plot” literally.

The reason why the situation could even cost the nation more is the way the LI 1630 grants certain institution almost freedom to build whatever they like without any checks or control.

The Schedule 1 Part II (Regulation 4) of the Building Regulation describes the exemptions from submissions of plans:

  1. No deposition of plans – Military Buildings e.g. barracks, ammunition depots, wireless rooms and ANY OTHER BUILDINGS FOR MILITARY PURPOSE. (Same for police, prisons, immigration, CEPS and Ghana National Fire Service).

The New Planning Act is mooting for a re-definition of military structures. For instance, a bank that serves the military community is not a military installation and therefore would have to be taken through the same stringent permitting process.

Presently since this is a gray area all non-military structures within barracks are granted permit by the Director of Engineering Services. We (GIA) engaged them recently to try and see how this could be managed better. The results is positive.

However, since the core function of the soldiers is not development control you do not expect them to fully and competently carry out this responsibility. For other security institutions that have not been this proactive we do not expect to make similar strides.

  1. No deposition of plans – ports, airports, sea ports and inland water ports.

Auntie Lizzy Hair supplies company has their offices built within the GHAPOHA enclave, without permit from TMA because they consider themselves to have been covered by this exemptions; this is not acceptable. Same as the warehouses for CMB in spite of the fact their adverse impact on traffic and the roads in and around the area.

A few physical planners have also complained about how the Airport City has become a concrete jungle with absolutely no complementary open spaces or greens.

And it seems the next phase of the project would take away the remaining greenery towards the north-east of the development since The Exchange Project is bound to take off.

  1. Deposition of plans, for one month prior to award of contract or commencement of work – Civil Service Buildings eg. residences, offices, commercial hospitals, clinics, research buildings and of course this warehouse structure would fall other this category.
  2. Deposition of Plans – University buildings
  3. No deposition required – mining buildings. for their residences they can just deposit it and the assemblies do not have any oversight responsibility.
  4. Deposition of plans for temporary permit – Kiosks, corn mills, carpenters shops, fitting shops, etc. This last part is the reason why we have all sorts of kiosks and fitting shops creating this urban mess.

Clearly the problem here is that there are no checks when the state decides to build. I have seen a few offices built by various MMDA’s and it is obvious that they usually fall below reasonable standards. Most of the time, due to budgetary constraints, they barely go beyond shell and core plus painting their structures.

I have never sighted smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, fire hose reels and even portable fire canisters when I visit these areas. And I am sure you would not find it in most public and civil service offices around the country. The further you get away from the capital the worse it would get.

It has been suggested that public hearing should be introduced in the Building Regulatory processes for public and Civil buildings. The assembly should be made by law to let their drawings undergo public and specialists scrutiny before, during and after construction.

Well, this is a wild dream, yes but what else should be done? We have also suggested that for the security agencies this hearing could be held in camera if the installation is part of core security operations.

We should have drastic changes to the way public buildings are constructed or this would not be the end of such disasters. As for the markets and shops the least said about them the better. Tudu is one area we must watch. Structures keep coming up and one wonders if they have permits and have been seen by the DPAs.

Their stairways and other accesses are worrying. These structures are paid for completely by the time they lay their first blocks and this is one area where better supervision should be expected.

By Tony Asare.

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