Human Settlement Expert Suggests Nature as Solution to Challenges
A Professor of Sustainable Human Settlement has postulated that human beings could learn a lot from nature when it comes to solving their challenges in a sustainable way as most of the problems humans face today were also faced by other organisms.
Professor Aigbavboa, Keynote Speaker at the 1st International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructural Development (ICSID) 2019 and Workshop recently held in Covenant University, where he delivered a lecture titled ‘Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure for Africa – a Biomimicry Approach’, said biomimicry was the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. He noted that biomimetics was the term used to describe the substances, equipment, mechanism and systems by which humans imitate natural systems and designs.
Aigbavboa, Vice-Dean, Postgraduate Studies, Research and Innovation, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, gave examples of biomimicry as Echolocation, which he said was the use of sound waves and echoes to determine the location of objects, and engineers re-designing the nose of the train by copying the Kingfisher bird’s beak shape among others.
Biomimicry, he affirmed, was one way to look for solutions to problems in the built environment. He stated that biomimicry was used by professionals such as scientists, engineers, designers and business people to create new ideas.
The Keynote Speaker explained that biomimicry could be applied on three levels. These included using the natural form of organisms for inspiration, mimicking natural processes, like chemical processes such as photosynthesis, to create more sustainable materials, and mimicking ecosystems and their functional principles. “The goal (of biomimicry) is to create products, processes, and policies – new ways of living – that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul,” he said.
Professor Aigbavboa said sustainable infrastructure referred to the designing, building, and operating of structural elements in ways that do not diminish, while resilient infrastructure referred to the ability of such infrastructure systems to absorb disturbance and still retain their basic functions and structural capacity.
He highlighted the framework for sustainable and resilient infrastructure as site and climate analysis, flexible structural systems, renewable building materials, building envelope systems, modular building systems, and renewable and non-conventional energy systems among others.
Earlier in his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant, Professor AAA. Atayero, acknowledged that over the years, there had been a remarkable growth of the built environment to meet the demands of increase in population and higher standards of living as well as growth in industrialization and urbanization. He said the consequence was that replacement and rehabilitation of aging and deteriorating existing infrastructures had become one of the challenges of the 21st century.
Professor Atayero, represented by the Director, Academic Planning Unit, Professor Francis Idachaba, posited that sustainable infrastructure not only enabled sound economic development, job creation and the purchase of local goods and services, it also enhanced quality of life for citizens, increased positive impacts, helped protect vital natural resources and environment, and promoted a more effective and efficient use of financial resources. However, according to him, it required careful consideration due to the enormous impacts to the well-being of people and the planet. He noted that emerging markets and developing economies needed vast investments for new infrastructure to spur growth.
The Vice-Chancellor stated that it was in furtherance of the need to formalize and contextualize best practices in sustainable infrastructural development in Nigeria and Africa that the ICSID was organized as Covenant University’s contribution to the efforts at evolving strategies for the development of sustainable infrastructure based on technological innovation of smart material and rehabilitation technologies.
A Lead Speaker at the event, Engr. Oludayo Oluyemi, in his presentation titled, ‘Urgent Need for Road Sector Reforms in Nigeria’, said it had become imperative that the Road Funds/ Road Board and the Federal Highway Authority are established in Nigeria for the nation’s roads to be safe and efficient. He declared that the establishment of these organs via a road sector reform would provide sustainability in the development and maintenance of roads in Nigeria.
Engr. Oluyemi, the National Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Highway and Transportation Engineers, stated that roads formed the integral of the social and economic activities in any nation, they provided access to markets, education, and health services, therefore, the road network determined economic development and also represented about 15% to 30% of Gross National Product (GDP) of a country.
He, however, lamented that in spite of their importance, most roads in developing countries were poorly financed and managed, and consequently, between 30% and 50% of roads in developing countries were in poor conditions, costing the national economy between 2 and 5% of GDP annually. He added that these costs were mainly the result of increased vehicle operating costs, longer travel times, higher accident rates, more freight damages and additional road rehabilitation cost.
He highlighted the current problems in the Nigerian Road Sector as lack of maintenance, inadequate funding, uncoordinated efforts and planning, poor planning, and very poor axle load control on roads.
While stating that the Road Sector in Nigeria was in dilemma and an urgent reform was necessary, the Lead Speaker canvassed for the creation of autonomous and user-controlled road funds financed by road user charges, and the introduction of performance-based road management and maintenance contracts, whereby payments to contractors would be based on pre-established performance standards of the roads rather than on works executed.
Others at the three-day ICSID conference organized by the Department of Civil Engineering, Covenant University, included the Dean, College of Engineering, Professor David Omole; Head, Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Anthony Ede; Chairman, Nigeria Society of Engineers, Ota Branch, Engr. Dr. F.I. Apeh; faculty, staff and students and participants from other institutions of higher learning and industries.