Understanding Building Regulations for better compliance

Understanding Building Regulations for better compliance

Tpl Odunlami The late Myles Munroe once said, “when purpose (of a thing) is unknown, abuse is inevitable”. This truism aptly captures the challenge faced by many government institution as they try to implement certain policies and programmes, but meet with minimal level of compliance or blatant resistance, either due to ignorance or deliberate disregard of such, by the people whom the policies are designed to benefit.

Government ministries, departments and agencies in charge of formulating policies therefore have to periodically inform and educate the public of the raison d’etre for their activities, so that members of the public can comply to stipulated rules and regulations from a position of knowledge. There are many such regulations in the built sector, majorly because human beings spend more than three quarter of their lifetimes in building.

In Ogun State, building regulations include certain measurements for set-backs and air-spaces; setback to public infrastructure and utilities; building coverage permissible per plot of land for residential, commercial, industrial and other uses; plot sizes; greenery and landscaping and permissible residential densities. Other regulations address permissible complimentary developments in land use zones, space standards, parking requirements and height of buildings.

Most of these building regulations are simplified for easier understanding thus: do not build on waterways or under high tension powerlines; observe stipulated setbacks and airspaces; use professionals in the built industry for your construction and obtain the necessary permits from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, among others.

One of the most contravened building regulations is the development of perimeter wall fences around residential buildings. Most of the State’s planning regulations, such as the Ogun State Planning and Development Permit Regulations, expressly state that “in residential areas or residential uses, the front fences abutting a road shall be a maximum of 2100mm in height, made of maximum of 1200mm high solid component and topped with see-through metal grill or mesh of maximum 900mm high”.

There are also specific stipulations for commercial, institutional and public buildings, while front fences are not allowed on designated high streets. Also very specific, is the regulation that the fence separating two adjacent properties shall be maximum of 2100mm in height, made of 1500mm high solid component and topped with see through metal grill or mesh of maximum of 600mm high. These regulations are however often flouted because of ignorance about the challenges that high fences pose.

Extremely high fences are erroneously believed to offer privacy to the inhabitants of a building. However, it also leads to isolation of the inhabitants in times of emergencies such as, say, robbery attacks, fire or even unexpected medical accidents. There have been reported and recorded instances where daredevil robbers gain access into a compound by creating holes in such fences, trapping the inhabitants inside completely at their mercy. It has therefore repeatedly shown that such high fences, toppled with concertina security wires, supported by CCTV cameras really offer no help when marauders have gained entrance and are prevented from being seen by neighbours, passers-by or security agents.

Apart from cutting off the possibilities for instituting communal security, that is, where neighbours can notice any abnormal activities within their environment and call attention to it when needed, it also insulates the inhabitants of such buildings from getting prompt help when in need. In such cases, the walls built to protect the privacy becomes prisons in times of emergency.

Another regulation by the Ogun State Planning and Development Permit Regulations stipulates that the setback of buildings to electricity powerlines and installations should be a minimum of 6metres from an 11KV power pylon/tower, 10metres for 33KV, 20metres for 132KV, 30metres for 330KV and 12metres from an electricity substation to any property.

These overhead powerlines can pose a danger during periods of torrential rainfall, lightning storms or even accidents. By observing the setbacks, citizens can be protected from direct risks of electrocution, among others. It is also important to note that these powerlines are constantly exposed to nature, which make them vulnerable to wear and tear.

Building regulation in the State also addresses setbacks to water bodies and channels, stipulating a minimum distance of 150metres between property boundary and the ocean or sea shoreline at high tide; a minimum of 100metres between property boundary and the established bank of Ogun River, a minimum distance of 20metres between property boundary and the bank of a river, creek or stream; and a minimum distance of 10metres between property boundary and the edge of a gorge, canal or drainage channel.

By observing these setbacks to water bodies and channels, citizens can play an important part in preventing flooding and protect themselves from overflow of water, most especially during the opening of dams and torrential rainfalls.

While looking to government to come to our aid in times of unexpected, unpleasant occurrences, the citizenry should endeavour to play its part by ensuring compliance to laid down regulations. People can start from the lowest-hanging fruit, which is to comply with the fence-building regulation, observing stipulated setbacks, airspaces and other regulations of the Ogun State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development with the knowledge that public safety remains a paramount focus of the Ministry and its agencies and that adherence to these regulations can improve the quality of life and functionality of spaces within living environment.