Strabsnet Educational
Ghana's building designs: the Journey so far

Ghanaian buildings have gone through a lot transformation—from straw to clay houses, to bricks and then cement block houses and now glass.

Perhaps we are taking inspiration from the more developed world—dreaming of buildings in the sea, putting up glass swimming pools or maybe the Dubai's media-city at the center of the world.

For almost 150 years, Ghana was at the center of the slave trade. Depending on how you want to look at it, the slave trade, has affected Ghana's architectural evolution positively. When it was abolished in July 1833 some Ghanaian's who were returned home did not only come back with new dance moves and afro Brazilian cuisine, they also brought building designs.

These buildings are mostly seen around James Town, Elmina and Cape Coast. I spotted a building in James Town which is over hundred years old, one which the slaves from Brazil introduced upon their return home. It was owned by a slave master – built around 1471.

A brick building located next to the Brazil house at James Town, according to occupants, it has never under gone renovation. I went round the building and though there are crakes, it is almost the same as the 17 year old Tema SSNIT flat, Block 8 which is now a “death rap”.

If at 176 years the brick house is standing and the over hundred year old wooden houses are still strong, then the question is: why should a 4 year old building collapse?

Are these Gold Coast slave transport houses made of just bricks and wood without iron rods stronger than the iron rod and concrete filled buildings around town lately?

For a 6 to 10 story building, a 20 millimeter iron rod is the preferred choice. One is sold for GHc 35. To make a very strong pillar for this kind of building, builders need between 6 to 8 such iron rods for one pillar depending on how strong the building ought to be.

Calculate 35 by 6 and imagine the amount of money that will go into just iron rods for a 10 story building.

A steel bender I spoke with said some developers use inappropriate iron rods for building. According to Appiah, a steel bender at Lapaz, developers “sometimes challenge us and ask if we gave them the money to build.”

Recently, a 5 story building housing the Achimota branch of Melcom collapsed, claiming 14 lives. The building was started in 1997 and completed in 2008.

Somehow, the Melcom disaster has changed some people's preference of building making others even scared to live in a good old house.

Perhaps most of us should go through some sort of counseling.

The new building trends in the capital are nice. Indeed, they have beautified Accra. But are we prepared for this? Or should we cut our coat to suit us?

If our wish or aim is to build a glass city on sand like it is done in Dubai without concrete foundations, then let's build it right.


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