Govt needs to partner ARCON to achieve urbanism in Nigeria —Ajayi

Sir Gabriel Oladipupo Ajayi is the President of Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON). In this interview, he spoke with journalists on the need for smart homes, urbanism, urban regeneration and promotion of more iconic buildings in the country as well as some of the achievements of his exco in less than three years. DAYO AYEYEMI brings details.

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How can the modern-day architects help to design and develop more iconic buildings in the country?

We have some iconic buildings in Nigeria. The CBN Head office is what can be called an ‘intelligent building’ the first of its kind in Nigeria. It has installed in place the fully intelligent building management system (IBMS), which regulates all the building services and also integrates the security. It was designed by interstate Architects Limited, with Olusegun Paul Adetokunbo Ladega as the Managing Director. The defence headquarters, Abuja; the Supreme court; INEC building; NCC Building; Aso Rock villa; NNPC building to mention but a few are some of the iconic buildings in Nigeria. However, Nigeria still has a long way to go in the area of development and infrastructure.

To increase the rate and speed of development in Nigeria, government should make available start-up funds for young creative architects to start their own companies which can be accessed through the Bank of infrastructure (formerly known as Urban Development Bank of Nigeria Plc. The Infrastructure Bank Plc was established in 1992 under decree No. 51 of the 1992 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) in collaboration with companies, construction agencies, government and private individuals, who are interested in funding start-ups in the construction industry. Design and pitch competitions for architects who are used to collaborating and leading design teams can also be organised at each registration level of architects (the graduate level, associate and membership level) with different criteria for accessing the funds and with proper mentorship.

With the shift in the dynamics of the construction industry, the traditional mode of starting an architectural firm is not sufficient for the built environment and the young professionals in the building industry to make an impact through the merging of technology and construction. To achieve this, the start-up path offers a way to have a potentially much bigger (and better-paid) impact. It also helps in collaboration between the professionals in the building industry and the Information technology industry.

The accessibility of start-up grants for young architects would increase the number of indigenous firms which would not only aid in the socio-economic development of the country, but also help to achieve the local content requirements, which are policies imposed by governments that require firms to use domestically-manufactured goods or domestically-supplied services in order to operate in an economy.

Nigeria is confronted with environmental challenges such as perennial floods due to heavy rainfall. What can be done to solve this problem?

Some scholars have noted that recent floods and consequences all over the world are becoming too frequent and threats to sustainable development. The effect of flooding that was observed to have adverse socio-economic consequences have been on the increase over the years. It was noted that government’s concerns have been unsustainable. Government is now encouraged to empower Nigeria’s architects to solve all problems that can cause flooding and thereby eliminate flooding in order for socio-economic activities to be effectively carried out.

You are so passionate about urbanism. Can you educate Nigerians on the benefits?

Urbanism has been scholarly defined as the study of how population of urban areas such as towns and cities interact with the built environment.

Architects have been trained to handle this kind of scheme. The benefits of urbanism have been scholarly identified to include promotion of high quality of life; better places to live, work and play; higher and more stable property values; reduction in traffic congestion and lack of driving; a healthier lifestyle with more walking, less stress; close to the retail street and the main services; close to cycling trails, parks and nature. As a result of urbanism, pedestrian communities offer more opportunities to get to know others in the neighborhood and city, leading to meaningful relationships with a larger number of people and a friendly town. It enhances more freedom and independence for children, the elderly and the poor in the ability to access jobs, entertainment and services without the need for a car or someone to lead. Urbanism promotes large savings for residents and school boards in reducing transportation costs from children who can walk or bicycling to neighborhood schools. It leads to more diversity, smaller shops and unique services with local owners involved in the community. Other benefits are significant savings by driving less and owning fewer cars; less ugly, crowded congestion to deal with every day; better sense of place and identity of the community in a more unique structure; and more open space to enjoy; more efficient use of tax funds with less spending on the deployment of facilities and roads. Government will have to partner with ARCON for urbanism to be achieved in Nigeria.

What of urban regeneration?

Urban regeneration has equally been scholarly defined as a complete and integrated vision and action which ends up in resolution of city troubles and seeks to bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, and social and environment condition of an area. Government would have to partner with ARCON to aid existing cities to be remodeled by them in order to aid creation of more roads, motorways and transport systems as well as creating new residential areas, industrial sites and commercial areas.

What is your take on smart homes?

Smart home technology, also known as home automation provides home owners security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices often by a smart home app on their smart phone or other networked devices. Smart homes technology is already practiced in some countries.

ARCON has well-endowed architects and would want government partnership for the realisation of smart homes in Nigeria.

Nigerian architects are well endowed and their practices are regulated by ARCON. ARCON solicits for partnership of government and Nigerian public in ensuring that the built environment becomes a safer place for all Nigerians to live in.

You have been leading ARCON for more than two years now. What are the achievements of your exco?

On our achievements, they include the recertification of the Abuja’s ARCON office land located at Jahi with plot no.1201/1203; and the renovation of Lagos office which the contract was awarded by the Ministry of Works and Housing. The contractor is set to commence the project after having taking possession of the premises.

The present council has also contributed over N60 million towards the construction of a befitting edifice to be called ARCON Headquarters situated in the already recertified ARCON land in Abuja, and many others.

Source: Tribune Online