How to avoid Building Construction Failure in Kenya.

How to avoid Building Construction Failure in Kenya.


Of late, several buildings have collapsed in Kenya.

Kiambu building collapse-picture from Daily Nation
Kiambu building collapse-picture from Daily Nation

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, draftsmen-virtually everyone with an interest in construction.
The Kenyan Law is very clear on the certifications that are necessary to offer Architectural service in Kenya. This service can only be offered by persons holding a practicing Certificate from Board of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya[BORAQS].

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 technician member.
What the developer doesn’t know is that only Corporate and Fellow members of AAK have the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors certification as a must have requirement.
I also noticed that potential developers seeking architectural services in Kenya still can not differentiate between the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya certificate and an Architectural Association of Kenya certificate.
What they don’t know is that the Architectural Association of Kenya certificate is open to a wide variety of applicants such as technicians and students-except the Corporate Membership certificate. Technicians and Students are not certified to offer Architectural services in Kenya under Kenyan Law.
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 on Corporate Membership certificate or BORAQS 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.
The Law should also make it clear on the correct Licences that Kenyans should seek to ensure that people offering them architectural services hold as in the case of the Law Society of Kenya that has no ambiguity.

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.
The Local Authorities indemnify themselves from building failure and collapse by having it mandatory that a registered architect who has authored the drawings sign the indemnity form thereby taking full responsibility of supervising the construction to ensure that there are no chances of building failure through out the construction period.
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 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.

Frank Gichuhi.

Francis Gichuhi (692 Posts)

Architect Francis Gichuhi . B.Arch. University of Nairobi. Registered Architect, Kenya. Member, Architectural Association of Kenya. Contacts. email Telephone +254721410684


  1 comment for “How to avoid Building Construction Failure in Kenya.

  1. May 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I have frequented your posts before. The more I read, the more I keep coming back! ;~)

Comments are closed.