Stories by Maduka Nweke
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Technology has given state-of-the-art architectural designs to buildings, which make them look extraordinary and one of such technologies is cladding. Cladding, just as paint, beautifies buildings and for those in the real estate sector, application of any of them could increase the value of such buildings.
Cladding is a non-load-bearing layer attached to the outside of a home to protect the building from the effects of weather. It is a key element in the aesthetic appeal of the home and directly influences both building cost and property value.
Your choice of cladding has a significant effect on the environmental performance of your home. Initial impacts of cladding, such as embodied energy, resource depletion and recyclability, must be balanced against maintenance and durability appropriate to life span.
The primary roles of cladding are to control the infiltration of weather elements and the egress of water vapour while providing a durable, aesthetically pleasing appearance. Secondary roles can include sound and thermal insulation, fire resistance, and the capacity for cleaning in dusty, polluted or vandal prone environments.
Your choice of cladding should be based on a careful assessment and prioritisation of each of these roles for each orientation of your home. By choosing cladding materials specific to an elevation or exposure, you can often achieve the best in physical performance and aesthetics.
West-facing gable walls are clad in durable steel, while the sun-protected North, South and courtyard walls are clad in weatherboard. For example, in situations where a building’s external envelope does not need to be fully ‘sealed’ (e.g. under deep verandas), highly breathable cladding can be an advantage. In areas or elevations with high exposure to sun, wind or rain, a very different approach is required.
The most recent huge inferno that engulfed a 27-storey London tower block, home to 600 residents inside the Grenfell Tower on Latimer Road in White City, West London, was said to be sever due to the combustible cladding that was used on the wall. Cladding could do a lot of things for the user and the building. It could give the user satisfaction and actualisation and at the same time give the building aesthetics and added value.
It has, however, been noted that if the walls were not cladded, the event of fire would not have been so severe. But owing to the cladding, which was done with combustible elements, either rubber or wood, it tended to bring corrosion to the wall as the heat of the fire helps to destroy the wall compartments.
Reacting to the role cladding played in the inferno and the attitude of Nigerians to copy whatever is done abroad, Mr. Haruna Abubakar, an interior decorator, said the experience of the London fire should teach Nigerians a lesson. He said that most times, Nigerians go abroad and bring everything they see abroad hook-line and sinker, stating that, “the difference is that when the devastating impact is felt, the Oyibo people curtail it with the equipment they have. But here in Nigeria, even to acquire insurance to reduce the loss, most of them will see it as unnecessary. Every environment should stick to what is peculiar to them.”
Mr. Nnacheta Onyeabor said with the introduction of technology and high taste for goods seen abroad, Nigerians should be careful because experts may come and establish them here but the fact that there’s lack of maintenance culture, those innovative technologies may not be well managed.
Onyeabor stated: “It is therefore good to ‘eat’ what you know and know what you ‘eat’,” adding that if the fire were to have been in Nigeria, the devastating effect would be alarming because of the challenge of fire fighters rising to the occasion.
He said, “if they come, they may not have the right equipment and where there is equipment, there may not be water to effect stoppage. This is the major problem in fire incidence in Nigeria,” he said.
The 27-storey London house fire, according one of the agency reports, started from Flat W on the 11th floor after a smoker dropped an unquenched stick of cigarette. The fire, the agency said, has so far claimed the lives of about 79 persons including those thought to be missing.
According to Gregory Katz, Associated Press, the official cause may not be known for months. The death toll is unclear and rising. No one has said exactly where the fire started. But experts suspect recent renovations at the Grenfell Tower, including newly installed external cladding, which played a tragic role in spreading the fire quickly.
He said that a look at the photos and videos of the inferno that claimed so many lives shows why cladding is a possible culprit because the flames could be seen climbing up the sides of the building at an alarming pace, overwhelming efforts to limit the destruction.
The exterior cladding and the insulation squeezed between its panels were added as part of an extensive renovation completed last year. Matt Wrack, leader of the Fire Brigades Union, told the Associated Press that changes made during the refurbishment project seem to have left the building vulnerable to a catastrophic blaze.
“No one knows if it’s cladding or one of the other alterations,” he said. “Something clearly affected the fire protection. Cladding is clearly one of the things that have to be looked at. We need to look at what happened to cause such a major failure. How can this happen in the UK in 2017? It’s staggering. It looks to me it could have been prevented.”
He said the public has a right to know the cause. Giving urgency to the quest for answers is the fact that other buildings in Britain and throughout the world use similar materials. Britain has ordered checks at tower blocks that have had comparable renovations or are being renovated now with similar methods.