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Don’t just build… do it right, says architects’ boss

By Milliam Murigi
Friday, May 29th, 2020
Jacob Mwangi, CEO, Architectural Association of Kenya.
In summary

By continuing to ignore professionals in the built environment, developers are walking a tight rope, warns Jacob Mwangi, CEO, Architectural Association of Kenya.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Kenyan developers and potential homeowners have been urged to consider using registered professionals and contractors, get the necessary permits and use the right materials when putting up new buildings.

The immense pressure for the construction of more buildings to meet the housing, commercial and other social needs of the ever-growing population has regrettably led to the development of structures that have failed to meet the minimum standards to guarantee a decent quality of life for the occupants from health, safety, and comfort perspectives. 

Jacob Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer, Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) says for many people, building a home is a once-in-a-lifetime project that should motivate you to bring out the best and deliver long term value to its owners.  

“To do this, you need to use a registered professional and contractor, get the necessary permits and use the right materials,” Mwangi told Boma in an interview. 

 Last year, the Nairobi County Urban Planning and Housing Committee chairman Anthony Kiragu said that only 25 per cent of the city buildings had their plans approved by City Hall after adhering to city zoning policies. 

This is a dangerous situation in a city that aspires to be a world-class metropolis, especially considering that 61 per cent of Nairobi’s inhabitants live in informal settlements.

Mwangi said  despite the fact that there are laws that are quite clear that developers must engage properly qualified built environment professionals to provide advice on projects, obtain necessary construction permits, use the right materials and use registered contractors, the majority of property developers have chosen to ignore them.

Wrong perceptions

“These requirements are put in place to promote the orderly development of our towns and cities.

However, there is this perception that the fees paid to consultants are an unnecessary cost to the developer who can obtain similar services from unqualified or illegal practitioners at a cheaper cost. Nothing can be further from the truth,” he said. 

Further, this situation is exacerbated by the cumbersome procedures that developers need to go through to obtain construction permits for their projects.

The construction permitting sections at the county governments are oftentimes opaque, understaffed and havens of corrupt activities. 

He warned that the imaginary savings made from sidestepping professional services are ultimately lost, either through the collapse of the building or delivery of a sub-optimal and unappealing buildings. 

Factoring the quality and quantity of materials used, inevitable modifications and maintenance costs as well as the off-the-record costs associated with evading the law.

“This is evidenced by the loss of lives and injuries caused by the frequent incidences of the collapse of buildings, inaccessibility of buildings during disasters such as floods and fires,” he said. 

“Worse, there is exposure to communicable diseases in densely populated areas, as we are currently experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, we have seen the emergence of neighbourhoods that can hardly be described as attractive,” Mwangi said. 

Availing information

“Our cities and other areas are defined by the buildings that make them up. We construct buildings, whether for residential, commercial or other purposes that will outlive us and it is important that we put up structures that will inspire pride for us and the future generations,” he added. 

To ensure that information about the procedures for obtaining construction permits is easily accessible to Kenyans, AAK has launched a website www.buildhub.aak.or.ke. 

Visitors to the site can then understand the procedures, documents required, and fees chargeable as they prepare to commence their projects, with the guidance of a consultant.

 “This initiative, together with efforts to deploy information and communication technology to automate the processes of obtaining construction permits and which the Association supports, will go a long way in improving the manner in which we deal with construction permits,” Mwangi said. 

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