Architect’s advise to 1st time Home Owners.
1. What is the first thing a potential home owner ought to do in building a home?
A potential home owner needs to seek advice regarding feasibility of the project. Feasibility encompasses knowing if budget will be enough, return on investment will be good, design/shape/style of the house will fit for the particular purpose e.t.c.
For example, the house size, class of finishes and shape in up market areas such as Karen, Runda and Muthaiga is distinctively different from the middle and low class suburbs of Nairobi. This means that house owners in these regions have gotten their feasibility right.
Why you need to hire an architect to draw up a plan for your house?
Architects are best placed to offer correct and accurate information regarding the construction industry. This is because during their day to day roles, they are able to note new changes in factors such as materials cost increase/decrease, new technology/materials in the market and new design/fashion /shape trends .
For example, the new buildings coming up in upper hill and along Waiyaki way,Westlands have a trendy style as compared to older buildings in the same area. The Delta Building at Westlands has utilized a unique way to resolve the car park issue by increasing the surface area available for car parking.
What is the role of the architect in the process of building you home?
Architect’s role is described under Chaper 525 of the Laws of Kenya and is broken down into 5 parts as follows.
Part A. This entails the architect giving the client information on how the building industry operates. Issues such as the role of Quantity Surveyors, Engineers etc is discussed.
Part B. This entails feasibility study and design of the building to fit within client’s taste and budget.
Part C. This entails submitting the drawings to the local authority for approval.
Part D. This entails coming up with detailed drawings that describe the building in finer detail. These drawings are what the Quantity Surveyor uses to estimate accurate costs and for the building contractor uses to carry out the actual construction.
Part E. This entails selecting a contractor and supervising the actual construction till completion.
How does an architect determine the cost / outcome of the house?
Due to involvement with various buildings of various natures such as residential houses, schools, hotels, an architect can be able to derive the cost per m2 of the complete building.
This cost will depend on whether the finishes used are of low, middle or high class. With this information, an architect can be able to safely assume that if building X was constructed at kes Y, then if a new building similar to building X is constructed, it will cost approximately the same. Quantity Surveyors go deeper into costing by deriving all materials and labor that will be used into the building and breaking it down in a Bill of Quantities which is more accurate than a general cost estimate.
What determines the size and design of the house?
The major factor that determines size and design is the budget. A quick look at houses in Karen and Runda will reveal the fact that the houses are huge and all are of different unique designs compared to say Rongai where most houses are smaller and of a similar design.
This shows that house owners in the upmarket areas can be able to afford the huge space and he architects who will come up with the unique shaped houses compared to other middle and low class neighbourhoods whereby the owners will mostly copy the neighbor’s style .
For homeowners who are building on a budget, now can they cut costs while building without compromising the safety and quality of the house?
Cost is very different from safety of houses. All the buildings which have collapsed around Nairobi have all used up a minimum of kes 50 million by the time of collapse. This shows that the owners had many millions at their disposal at the time of collapse.
The common denominator in such buildings is that the owners, however wealthy, ignored or were not aware of the consultants available in the building industry such as Architects and Engineers. All the collapsed buildings around Nairobi have not been designed by architects and Engineers.
There are various methods that can be used to reduce the construction costs without compromise of safety. Factors such as reduction of wasted space in corridors, use of locally available materials, reduction in use of reinforced concrete where unnecessary etc goes a long way in overall cost reduction.
A look at the older buildings built during the colonial period in upper hill area will show how many factors that reduce costs were utilized and the buildings are still standing strong, 50 years after construction.
Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.