By Antonis Loizou (FRICS)
Several reports have been written regarding subsidence at various locations, most recently referring to Armou village among other locations.
There are some heartbreaking cases where people place all their savings to buy a house only to find out afterwards that the house/pool/retaining walls are moving and sometimes causing the house to become impossible to live in. So who is to blame?
The procedure in order to secure a building permit is as follows:
- There should be a soil investigation by the design civil engineer or a specialised firm.
- Based on this the civil engineer should adapt his design accordingly.
- During construction the private civil engineer should supervise the design of the civil works based on his design.
- The civil engineer and the architect of the project should supervise to make sure that the construction is according to the plans and without any deviations.
- The local authority that issues the building permit should supervise to an extent the works and not come at a later stage to claim otherwise, whereas the structural design is subject to its approval.
- The developer who may not be the prime party to supervise, might bear some responsibility, but this is debatable.
- The certificate of final approval (which records that the works are okay) which is issued by the authority after checking is also partly responsible.
So along this long line of work who is to blame at the end since the buyer is the last one to be blamed (unless he caused himself any interventions in the execution – not unknown).
It is evident that on some occasions the required procedure is not followed or even worse the various professionals and authorities claim no responsibility if there is a problem. In a recent case the government has somewhat adopted some responsibility, but we wonder if this is correct and whether the government should sue the consultants and the authorities for not doing their job.
Settlements and bad construction quality are evident in many projects but to the extent that it gets reported is something else. It is logical that a development for a new building will bear some sort of settlement and this is not unreasonable, at least 12 to 24 months after delivery in addition to the appearance of cracks.
It is a mess, the way everybody is pointing the finger at others and it is not unlike what is happening in other countries with similar circumstances (see Spain where a whole project is sliding towards the sea). We need to become more professional in our work to avoid this sort of situation. The government in a more recent effort produces some sort of geological plans indicating where there is a possible danger, but these plans are isolated and not detailed. It is an indication however that special care is needed in such areas.
The problem is, if the required repairs are not carried out immediately the situation might get worse, causing the building to become beyond repair. Having said that, any repair regarding subsidence and its side effects is costly, whereas if a project has such a problem, it will be very difficult to sell afterwards, making the financial situation of the buyer even worse.