Building agency allays fears over Dar varsity hostel cracks

TANZANIA Building Agency Acting Manager of Construction Brigade, Arch Humphrey Killo, shows journalists (not in the picture), a piece of wood removed from an expansion joint at the University of Dar es Salaam hostel yesterday. The issue went viral on social media, triggering panic, especially within the university community. yesterday. (Photo by Iddy Mwema)

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TANZANIA Building Agency (TBA) yesterday defended the widely circulating information that the newly built University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) hostels have developed cracks, saying it was a minor and expected fault which doesn’t have any negative effects.

The problem at Block ‘A’ which occurred at the expansion joint was due to the building system TBA applied, and the fault was to signify the building settling process; said the TBA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Elius Mwakalinga.

It is in such a way other blocks can develop cracks at the same points (expansion joints); suppressing students’ fears, reassuring them that there was no need for them to be relocated while the problem was being fixed.

“Even if we do not know the intention of the person who circulated this information on social media as we also question his/ her educational background over building profession, we are nonetheless assuring the public that nothing is wrong,” he said.

On how long it took for a building to stand firmly on a given spot, the TBA boss responded that it depended on the nature of the soil given that soil characteristics had been changing due to various reasons, including climate change impacts.

He further explained that a building’s settlement on sandy soils normally took place within a year, but clay soil went beyond and that was the case at the UDSM hostel where the soil was a mixture of sand and clay.

TBA Chief Engineer, Mr Jaspar Lugemarila, chipped in, explaining that the hostels were firm to the extent that there were open options for two extra floors to be erected above each block. He reiterated that the problem was minor since the area (expansion joint) was deliberately spared to give signals not only on the settlement process but also other serious problems.

“That is what we call predetermination and we are still in retention period to observe the buildings settlements and other risks, if any. If it were an issue of sub-standard, cracks would have emerged in every wall in all six blocks and not only on expansion joints,” he said.

He added that if sandy soil was the issue, 60 per cent of the settlement could have taken place; reassuring the public, particularly hostel residents, not to worry, explaining, furthermore, that the cracks at expansion joints signified remarkable development which meant the foundation had already settled down and was now the turn of the next part (buildings), according to the Chief Engineer.

Reached for comments, some experts defended the TBA position, saying cracks at expansion joints was normally an expectable issue, resulting mostly from destabilisation of the soil.

However, the president of Institution of Engineers Tanzania, Eng Ngwisa Mpembe, urged the Agency to take precautions by investigating the issue more incisively, and satisfying itself whether there was no other problem given that there are many more reasons behind cracks in the building.

He simultaneously advised the public to calm down, saying the current problem wasn’t a serious enough issue to prompt the evacuation of those accommodated at the hostel. “Cracks are sometimes an alert of serious problems but not the ones on expansion joints.

For instance, when people experience cracks on walls and slow function of doors and windows, those are signs of serious problems and must re-locate immediately,” he said.

Assistant Registrar in the Engineers Registration Board (ERB) Eng Patrick Barozi, reiterated that the circulated problem at UDSM was just simple, but refrained from giving more details over the matter, saying an ERB team would visit the site today, to assess the scope of the problem.

“We will have something to say after the assessment but so far, the public should be reassured that the reported cracks at the hostel don’t pose a serious problem,” he said.

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