TBA: Varsity hostel ‘cracks’ are due to new building tricks

05Dec 2017
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
TBA: Varsity hostel ‘cracks’ are due to new building tricks
  • According to the state-run building agency, modern construction technology includes the use of ‘expansion joints’ to enable the structures to adjust over time

THE state-run Tanzania Building Agency (TBA) yesterday sought to explain the large cracks that have appeared on one of six new University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) hostel blocks recently built by the agency in a bid to expand the university’s on-campus students accommodation capacity.

Photographs of the conspicuous cracks on the hardly eight-month-old building went viral on social media over the weekend, raising widespread public concerns bordering on outright fears for the long-term safety of the students accommodated in the new blocks.

But according to TBA chief executive officer Elius Mwakalinga, the cracks are nothing unusual in modern buildings where the technology applied during construction includes the use of ‘expansion joints’ to allow space for the structures to consolidate over time.

“We (TBA) immediately embarked on an inspection on Sunday night...there is nothing to be so worried about as the circulated pictures seemed intent on portraying. Those are just normal cracks that can be explained as expansion joints,” Mwakalinga told a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday.

Such cracks are a normal occurrence in modern high-rise buildings, he said, adding: “They (cracks) were expected due to the expansion joints created during construction, to enable the buildings to adjust.”

“Every block has three expansion joints to allow adjustments, which is common in all efficiently built-up facilities depending on the type of soil in a respective place.”

He urged the students and the general public to stop worrying, saying there is no need to relocate students now living in the hostels since any defect repairs if required will only be of a minor nature and can be done in a short period of time.

TBA chief engineer and consultant Gasper Rwegamalira also asserted that the UDSM hostel buildings project was carried out in adherence to all construction procedures and requirements.

“We are confident of what we are doing...all the professional procedures were fully observed,” Rwegamalira stressed.

UDSM students government (DARUSO) president Jeremiah John Jilili

 also supported the TBA explanation and asserted that the photos of 'cracks' being circulated were calculated to "deceive the public".

"The way the blocks are built, one might think it is one building, but the truth is that there are separation (sic) points. These are what were photographed, zoomed (enlarged) and advertised as cracks," Jilili said in a statement.

He added that DARUSO could not allow students to be housed in an unsafe facility. "We have satisfied ourselves beyond all doubt that the hostel occupants are under no safety threat," he said.

The DARUSO leader also asserted that "not everything is politics."

The hostels, which have a total housing capacity of 3,840 students, were formally inaugurated last April by President John Magufuli, who said the government had saved at least 90 billion/- in engaging the state-affiliated TBA for the project instead of a private contractor.

Said the president at the time: “I would like to commend TBA for a job well done. The project cost was 10bn /- only, as opposed to the cost quoted by foreign contractors. Therefore you can see for yourselves how much we have saved here.”

He added that some foreign contractors initially sought out for the project had pegged the price at least 150bn/-, hence the decision to go local, and ultimately, TBA.

“Tanzanians should strive to use local contractors for such projects because they are cheaper and can execute better quality work compared to expensive foreign construction firms,” Magufuli said.        

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