How to Avoid Building Construction Failure in Kenya

Of late, several buildings have collapsed in Kenya.

There are procedures and best practices that should be followed to avoid this.

Step 1.

Have the building designed by registered professionals. Architects in Kenya are registered by the Board of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya. The Board of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya is under the Ministry of Public Works. The registration process is rigorous and is a 2- year examination whereby the Government ensures that the applicant has undergone training under a registered Architect for a certain period after graduating from a recognized Architecture School.

After registration as an Architect, the applicant can then register with the Architectural Association of Kenya as a corporate member.

The Architectural association of Kenya also registers students-student membership, architecture graduates who are not registered-graduate membership, building contractors, developers, draftsmen-virtually everyone with an interest in construction.

This begins the confusion in that a would-be developer will approach a quack who is not registered to give Architectural services in Kenya. The quack will then prove to the innocent developer that he is registered to offer Architectural services by producing a registration certificate from Architectural Association of Kenya as a Licentiate member. What the developer doesn't know is that only Corporate and Fellow members have the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors certification as a must have requirement.

I also noticed that even leading Banks and Financial institutions still can not differentiate between the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya certificate and an Architectural Association of Kenya certificate. They insist that for someone to offer Architectural services to their customers, one has to hold the Architectural Association of Kenya certificate. What they don't know is that the Architectural Association of Kenya Licentiate certificate is open to a wide variety of applicants-except the Corporate Membership certificate. This is the trick that is used by most quacks to confuse innocent developers and Financial institutions that they have certificates to offer architectural services since none of the developers will insist of Corporate Membership certificate because they don't know about the categories of membership.

If a law is established to create one centre of reference for Architects-such as with the Law society of Kenya, we will be one step ahead in ensuring qualified personnel offer Architectural service to Kenyans.

Step 2.

Once the developer has maneuvered their way into getting a licensed Architect to offer the service, drawings are produced and lodged for approval at the relevant Local Authority.

Most local authorities don't have adequate technical personnel to decipher the drawings and give the necessary input for approval.

Nairobi city council has the personnel but they are too few to handle all the workload that comes to them daily.
Since the council can not offer professional technical information regarding the approvals, due to understaffing and lack of the technical know-how, this creates a perfect recipe for corruption. The developer's approvals are delayed to the point that he is forced to part with some money for the plans to be approved-usually without the plans being scrutinized. If the plans are scrutinized and all processes are followed, a fatal omission will be easily noticed and structural drawings from a registered structural engineer are supposed to be produced. The Local authority is also supposed to check that the plans have been produced by a registered architect.

Of late, local authorities have been insisting on the architect's registration-registration from the Board of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya.

This is a good step but the quacks and corrupt council officials have found a way of going around this by attaching a 'real' architect's certificate on the drawings produced by the quack. This can be easily stopped by ensuring that all buildings being constructed should have a sign-board showing the name of the professionals who have been involved in the design.

Step 3.

After the developer getting the necessary approvals to commence construction, he is supposed to contract a registered building contractor for construction services.

Building contractors are registered by the Ministry of Public Works.

The developer can either single-source a contractor or request several registered contractors to quote or the building construction and choose the best.

The registration of the building contractor is supposed to show that the contractor has proved that he understands building construction and has agreed to adhere to the best practices as stipulated by the Government.

In Kenya, most developers do not use the building contractors. This requirement is again not enforced in private developments. In Government, Parastatals and corporate developments, this requirement is fully followed to the letter.

The Architect who has been contracted by the developer is supposed to offer periodic supervision of the building construction until completion of the building whereby he is supposed to certify that the building is complete and ready for human habitation. These processes are enforced by the local authority who as we said earlier, are understaffed and don't have enough technical personnel hence this step is rarely taken unless when the developer wants to insure his building and the insurance company insists that they need to see the completion certificate.

In corporate sector projects, all these processes are followed to the letter-that's why we never hear of the 20 -plus storey buildings collapsing in Upperhill, Kilimani and other areas where the corporate sector develops even though the buildings are approved by the same local authorities and constructed within the same laws that govern the individual-owned buildings which are prone to collapse. The building construction collapse is mainly on the individual-owned constructions who do not follow the laid -down procedures and whom the local authorities are too overwhelmed to cater for. If all the laid-down procedures are followed regardless of the size of the project, collapse of houses will be a thing of the past.