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Construction: Crackdown looms on poor workmanship

REAL ESTATE
By Peter Theuri | October 21st 2021

Engineer Elias Morang'a from NMS looks at the rubble of a nine-storey building in Kamukunji that collapsed in a picture taken on July 23, 2021. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Construction sector authorities have warned they will increase oversight on regulations following increased cases of collapsed buildings around the country.

The Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK), National Construction Authority (NCA) and the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (Boraqs) have cautioned developers against poor standards, with punishment set to be meted on non-compliant professionals.

This comes in the wake of a nine-storey building’s collapse in Ruiru on October 16.

“We have noted with concern that over the recent past there has been an increase in the collapsing of buildings that are under construction,” the three agencies said in a joint statement.

“In the early morning of October 17, 2021, a nine-storey building under construction in Membley area, Ruiru collapsed.

“We have collaborated with the County Commissioner, Kiambu County, and the County Government of Kiambu and will conduct investigations into the collapsed building.”

The three bodies have now announced a partnership where they will work together to root out bogus players in the industry.

In the past, divided efforts have not borne fruit, with runaway impunity among developers.

“We will be going around the country to ensure that all buildings under construction have been put up with adherence to regulations that we have set. We want to avert disaster,” said EBK Chief Executive Margaret Ogai.

She blamed a system where relevant authorities only bounce into action after a calamitous outcome of poor workmanship, saying the agencies’ collaboration will now make it possible to nip unfit works in the bud.

NCA is also cracking the whip on developers believed to employ underhand methods in a bid to save on resources, in so doing putting people’s lives in danger.

“We are giving developers who have not registered their building plans 30 days to do so,” said NCA Executive Director Maurice Aketch.

“We will ensure there is right professionalism and licensing during construction.”

Weak foundation

Just recently, other buildings collapsed in Kinoo, Kiambu County, and in Kisumu.

Institution of Engineers of Kenya president Nathaniel Matalanga attributed the collapse of the Kinoo building to a weak foundation.

“You cannot build a five-storey structure on a narrow foundation without the service of a structural engineer. It will collapse,” he told Real Estate.

EBK, NCA and Boraqs, in their joint statement, claimed that the probable cause of collapse of the Ruiru building was foundation failure or structural failures.

Mr Aketch said use of poor quality building materials, failure to follow set instructions in the construction process and lack of monitoring by competent professionals are some of the main contributors to collapse.

Brian Kambona, an assistant engineer at Rhines Engineering Services, says that a building collapses when it fails to bear its own weight.

“Oftentimes, building collapses when the key structural members — roof, slab, beam, column and foundation — fail,” he said.

The problem stems from the ‘do-it-yourself’ trend where developers shun professional assistance, often leading to disaster. 

“Developers are embracing quackery in the construction sector in order to save a few coins without understanding the compounded negative effects of their actions,” Mr Kambona said.  

Benjamin Maingi, a member of EBK, said some developers end up using more money in their projects by hiring unqualified people to oversee construction projects. Engineers, he said, are professionals at optimisation and reduce waste.

Eng Maingi said the cost of employing professionals to check on foundation and other pre-construction details is just a tiny fraction of the total outlay of the project, saving developers millions of shillings that would be lost in case the building collapsed.

But even as developers face the flak, EBK vowed to investigate and ensure that engineers involved in substandard works faced disciplinary action.

“Those found culpable will be punished accordingly, including through suspension and deregistration,” said Eng Ogai.

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