Durable Buildings

The Economic Dynamics of Durable Buildings


The 1,936 year old Colosseum was built in AD 80, damaged by fire in 217 AD and earthquake in 443 AD, yet it gloriously plays host to millions of visitors annually today. By this it has the credit of attracting billions of dollars annually in tourist revenue to the Italian economy. Did the original builders of the Colosseum envisage it to be the great national asset it is today? Did it ever come into their imagination that close to 2000 years on, their children would still be reaping the fruit of their labour? What made the Colosseum stand out from the millions of buildings constructed from antiquity to the present? Why did the Colosseum stand the test of time? Questions, questions, and more questions.

To help us answer these and other begging questions, we hereby introduce a series of articles titled “THE ECONOMIC DYNAMICS OF DURABLE BUILDINGS”. These articles would also help to establish the desirability or otherwise of constructing durable buildings by construction companies and the economic consequences of our decisions during the construction phase of our building projects.

What are Durable Buildings?

According to Wikipedia durability can be defined as the ability of a product to perform its required function over a lengthy period under normal conditions of use without excessive expenditure on maintenance or repair. This can be construed to mean the ability of a product to withstand environmental pressures to looose its functionality over a prolonged period of time. Also Vitruvius in 50 BC, outlined three important and indispensible qualities that any building must possess. These include – Utilitas (usefulness, functionality); Firmitas  (safety, stability, structural integrity) and Venustas (beautiful, aesthetics, appealing to human senses of beauty).

Therefore one can safely define building durability as the ability of a building to continue offering utilitas, firmistas,  and venustas by withstanding environmental, and social pressures over a long period of time. Hence for a building to be durable, thought must be given by its designers and constructors to these three different areas of building durability.

Why are Durable Buildings Key to Prosperity?

According to economists, wealth of nations is determined by their ability to accumulate capital through a process known as capital formation. They posit that capital formation is a function of invested savings and depreciation of existing capital. This implies that the total value of capital available for production to an individual or group is determined by the value of the investments minus the cost of maintaining such investments.

For instance, an individual with a total investment of say N10,000,000 and a cost of maintaining such an investment of N6,000,000 has a capital formation value of N4,000,000. On the other hand an individual with the same value of investments but with a lower cost of maintainance of investment, say N2,000,000 will have a higher capital formation value of N8,000,000. Therefore, the lower the cost of maintainance of capital, the higher the value of the capital available for productive work.

We can recall that durable buildings require minimal maintainance and hence lower maintàinance costs. Thereby implying that as you invest in durable buildings, you can safely reinvest the funds you would have used to maintain a substandard building. By so doing, your overall accumulated wealth will definitely increase over time.

How can We Achieve Durable Buildings?

Buildings that can stand the test of time can only be produced through painstaking project design, evaluation and execution. Factors like functionality, stability and aesthetics must be professionally analyzed during project design to establish their most durable states. One must also establish the least possible overall project lifetime cost (Procurement + Maintainance costs). This is important since research have shown that most people only consider procurement costs when selecting from project alternatives. Finally, the right materials, equipment and processes must be employed during project execution phase to ensure the production of a durable building.

Note that employing the services of the right professionals is the only guarantee of adhering strictly to the above process. Employing a team comprising of the following professionals is the only guarantee of producing an economic and durable building. The Architect is trained to produce functionally and aesthetically durable buildings while the Quantity Surveyor analyzes project  costs for economy. On their part, Engineers ensure the stability and durability of the component parts of a building. Finally Builders and Project Managers ensure the successful execution and final delivery of the building project.


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