QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT WWW.A4ARCHITECT.COM
1. Tell us about your company
www.a4architect.com offers architectural and construction project management. We also offer IT solutions for Local Governments and N.E.M.A in terms of application for approval of projects.
2. What are some of the projects you have successfully completed?
The most notable is the Naivas at the roundabout of Jogoo road and Outer ring road completed in 2010. Others are various residential estates and houses dotted all over Kenya. We are also in the process of starting a housing estate project in Kigali, Rwanda.
We are about to complete Greenvile Estate, located in Syokimau. This was marketed online and once buyers booked the virtual houses, we approached Housing Finance for financing and now completion is scheduled for April 2012.
3. You said that you do online architecture, why did you choose this path and how does it work?
Online architecture offers an efficient method of communicating for our clients.
Clients do not have to move from their offices/homes to contact us-they can do that online through their phones or computers at the comfort of their homes and offices.
Online architecture works as follows:
• Client contacts us through email/phone after visiting www.a4architct.com.
• Client describes their needs and requirements.
• Client receives proposal on estimated cost of project and cost of architectural consultancy.
• Client signs contract for commencement of service between them and www.a4architect.com.This may or may not require a physical meeting. It depends on the wishes of the client. Some clients will want to meet physically at this point while others will not.
• Client receives design and makes payment through Paypal, MPesa or directly to bank account.
• Design process continues with exchange of information between client and www.a4architect.com until client is satisfied with the design.
• Design is taken for approval at the appropriate Local Authority offices .This requires a physical meeting/presence between www.a4architect.com representatives and Local Authority.
www.a4architect.com has developed a platform that will reduce the number of meetings between applicants and Local Authority .See details here
• Construction supervision till completion takes place .This requires periodic physical site visits. Where only documentation is required, this is transmitted online to the contractor or other supporting consultants e.g engineers.
4. Do you offer your services to locals only, or have you gone international?
Another great advantage of offering Online architectural services is the ability to offer architectural services internationally.
Last year we offered architectural service for construction of a building in Senegal. We have also offered online architectural services to clients in Uganda and Rwanda.
We are currently handling a design in Kigali-where necessary, most communication is done online between www.a4architect.com ,the Client and Kigali City Local Authority One Stop Centre offices.
5. How do you negotiate for pay without physically seeing the clients?
Architectural services are regulated by CAP 525 of the laws of Kenya so the negotiations are minimum. It’s easy to derive the cost estimate of the project and derive the percentage required as fees. This information is done online, through telephone or face-to-face meetings.
6. The concept is fairly new to the Kenyan market- how is it being received and what are some of the challenges you are facing in penetrating to the market?
In the beginning, i.e early 2003 to around 2007, Kenyans were very skeptical of anything/transaction online. www.a4architect.com has emerged as a brand that offers quality service in the field of architecture .This has reduced the amount of skepticism from potential clients. Also, clients are beginning to measure the amount of time and resources they can save by reducing face-to-face meetings especially with the never-ending Nairobi traffic jam.
With more and more Kenyans accessing the internet, and with the High Speed cable internet, more and more Kenyans are beginning to appreciate the conveniences that IT/internet offers.
The drawback is that the majority of Clientele in Kenya are over 60 years old. Investing in construction is a costly affair .It takes people very many years to be able to amass the cash to build. The unfortunate thing is that this age group is not internet savvy. It’s quite hard to train them to communicate through IT.
7. How do you handle the issue of trust with your clients- since you only do online business with them?
Architectural service is broken down into smaller parts. We offer the first part of the service then the client pays after they are happy and content with it.
After payment, we move to the next service and offer it for client consumption then we wait for payment. This procedure goes on and on till completion.
Architectural Association of Kenya and the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors of Kenya need to display a list of registered architects such that it is easier for clients to counter-check with these bodies.
As we speak, the Architectural Association of Kenya website is displaying an Arabic flag with the words HACKED BY Over-X.
Here is the screen shot
With the Bodies that are vested with the role of ensuring the Kenyan public gets the best architectural services having unserviced websites, it becomes harder for our clients to ascertain our registration. It also becomes harder for us to differentiate ourselves from the thousands of quacks offering substandard services online.
8. When and How do you supervise the progress of these buildings?
Once the Local Authority e.g Nairobi City council e.t.c approves the building proposal, we then move to supervision of the buildings.
Where physical presence is needed, we offer site visits. Where physical presence is not needed, we receive pictures from the contractor on site.
9. What projects do you find easier to design using this method and which are not so compatible with the method?
This method is good for small residential houses. This is because due to lack of economies of scale, it is more feasible for the client to consume online architectural services. Large projects are able to accommodate physical meetings due to economies of scale. Also, the level of risk involved is large so physical presence is needed.