Technology goes together with every aspect of human existence, making its influence in innovations and creative forms of expression in Architecture unsurprising. Despite its impact and growing use around the world, it seems Nigeria has not caught up to this wave.
Since her independence, Nigeria has been regarded as a developing country, which makes one wonder just how much technology has impacted the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) industry. Whilst it can be assumed that the industry is as fast growing as the rest of the world, the progresses made pale in comparison. Therefore, it appears that Nigeria’s AEC industry is stunted in a “3rd world limbo” with a façade that mimics the rest of the world.
What really is the Progressive context?
Technology in Architecture goes beyond the introduction of CAD; which basically saved our lives from long hours of huddling on large sheets and the risks of accidents happening after the labour-intensive process- which was it, for the industry.
There are software that allow the experiencing of buildings and anticipation of potential problems long before construction begins. There is also the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Technology that allows the production of intricate shapes, claddings, and 3D printing, by using a computer. Recently, the 4th dimension has been the rave with animated versions of buildings allowing a more realistic perception and walkthrough of the building.
The 3rd World limbo…
In comparison with the global trends, it appears that Nigeria has found herself in a “technological rut” with the lack of progressiveness. We continue to use methods obsolete in other countries, making one wonder how often stakeholders update themselves on current trends. How seriously do we take research and innovation without it being handed over verbatim from the West? We need to find answers and be guided to step out of this rut.
Unfortunately, these innovations are accessible and just haven’t gained enough acceptance. Professionals are simply satisfied with the bare minimum and familiar practices, with no new solutions or trends imbibed. Recycling and revamping the tired old designs and rudimentary methods; repeatedly simply won’t do!
I tried to find out what could be the root cause of this problem; perhaps, the education of the Architect? I wondered. It’s a head scratcher really.
In 2017, I co-authored a conference paper titled “Students’ perception of the use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) for Sustainable Architecture designs” published on the EduLearn platform. We conducted a survey set between two highly acclaimed schools of Architecture in Nigeria; a private university and a federal government university.
The result was astounding!
A whopping 88.8% of the architectural students from both institutions were aware of the tools available to them to achieve Sustainable Architecture, but barely 11% used it for that purpose. They used it for the basic drafting and 3D visualizations that could have otherwise been achieved manually; so, in my opinion, no big deal there. It did, however, point to a bigger problem; that the curriculum covered only the bare minimum, as it was the only part that would be required of them when they graduate and join the industry.
How do we encourage innovation when the bare minimum qualifies you?
Assessing the education of Nigerian Architects helped shed light on the problem in a bigger picture. The undergraduates are not permitted to make use of computer technology in design studios until they reached advanced levels, whereas their counterparts in the western world have not only mastered the software available to them, they have begun to research and develop new and innovative ways to practice Architecture. The results of their research will then be enjoyed by the ones in Nigeria; who are left to self-education and online tutorials for access to it.
You would expect them to encounter problems in practice? Er….nope!
They end up working for firms that have been established by older, more experienced professionals who ironically are policy-makers in the facilitation of Architectural practice and education! They themselves don’t use it in their offices, why should it be encouraged in schools?
It is an endless cycle with only a small percentage attempting to break free.
Simply put, Nigerian AEC industry has been in a “Lucid dream state”. Admittedly, there is a level of awareness on series of innovations that can be achieved, with very few examples emerging here and there. Unfortunately, younger designers are continuously being stifled as some of them try to innovate as best as they can within this “dream state” they have found themselves. The older Architects discourage them with ideologies of it being done a “certain way”, the “Nigerian way”, “it simply will not work, it only works in places like UK and US”, etc. It is simply appalling!
I really hope things will improve, I really do. But it does not look like it would change anytime soon. Hence, I can categorically state that TECH has not manifested itself in Nigerian AEC industry. It simply is not enough to have made a mark… Access to innovations is limited and often outrageously expensive that the average Nigerian would much rather choose simpler, cheaper and very primitive alternatives that bring results that mimic rather poorly.
I certainly hope this isn’t you…