BICON Zambia Limited, the consultants responsible for the supervision of the structural engineering works at Society Business Park in Lusaka, say the column strengthening works on the office block are expected to be completed in December, 2020.

In a statement, Wednesday, following widespread concerns on the safety of the structure located in Lusaka’s Central Business District (CBD) area, Bicon Zambia announced that the column strengthening works were set for completion after next month.

The announcement follows concerns from stakeholders that the columns were inadequate to withstand the load of the structure, which was upgraded back in 2011 following an execution of contract between NAPSA and Yangts Jiang Enterprises Limited (YJL), who in-turn engaged a team of consultants to deliver the project as a “design and build” turnkey project.

The scope of the project involved the conversion of the-then existing 18-storey office block, which was formerly occupied by the Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS) into a 148-room hotel as well as the demolition of Central Arcades and the construction of a Retail Mall, Parkade and an Office Block on top of the parkade.

“The entire Society Business Park Project was completed on a sectional basis starting with the Retail Mall and Parkade in 2016, followed by the Office Block in 2017 and then the Hilton Garden Inn in 2018. On the 13th of October, 2019, one column on the 1st floor failed by way of crushing at the intersection of the column and slab which also and as a result of the failure stressed the three neighbouring columns on the 1st floor level. As a precautionary measure, the owners of the Building NAPSA ordered an evacuation of the Tenants of the office block in order to facilitate a detailed examination of the office block structure,” read a joint statement issued by Bicon Zambia chief executive officer Renatus Mushinge and Broadrick Masesa, the company’s Associate Director/ Project Structural Engineer.

They stated that repairs to the failed and stressed columns on the first floor were inspected by all stakeholders, including the Independent Engineer, the Engineering Institution of Zambia (EIZ) and the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACEZ), among others.

“…NAPSA subsequently engaged the services of an Independent Consultant to undertake a detailed investigation in order to determine the structural integrity of the entire office block and the supporting parkade structure below. The summary of the Independent Engineers findings are as follows: – 1. The slabs for the parkade and the office block were found to have adequate capacity to carry the design load, 2. Although not showing any signs of stress, 153 columns in the parkade and office block out of a total of 258 columns, which carry the parkade and office block, had column capacities lower than the design capacity due to lower concrete strengths than the specified concrete strength. This entailed that all these columns have been earmarked to be strengthened in order to increase the load bearing capacity and factor of safety of the columns,” they stated.

Mushinge, however, announced that the column strengthening works on the office block were expected to be completed after next month.

“In view of the foregoing, BICON Zambia as the Design Structural Engineers were required to submit a proposal for the strengthening of the columns identified by the Independent Engineer. In conclusion, EIZ has on three occasions with other stakeholders visited the site and have been kept informed of the column strengthening works. In addition to the foregoing, BICON Zambia has on several occasions shared with EIZ and NCC copies of the reports in connection with the column strengthening works. BICON Zambia has also attended a hearing called for by EIZ in connection with this project. The contractor, who has taken over from YJL who is currently executing the column strengthening works under the full-time supervision of BICON Zambia, is working diligently in order to complete the column strengthening works on site as soon as possible,” stated Mushinge.

“The Independent Engineer contracted by NAPSA is also providing regular oversight and closely monitoring the ongoing works on site. Based on the current programme, the column strengthening works are expected to be completed in December, 2020. EIZ as the regulator of the engineering industry has unfettered access to the site to inspect the ongoing works and to request from us any information, they may wish to obtain with respect to the ongoing works to enable them issue informed statements to the public with respect to this project.”