1.What are some of the safety precautions landlords should adhere to before erecting a building?
Landlords as the developers have a duty to ensure safety of occupants in these high rise buildings. Common dangers are seen when children are playing and pass through the space in between railings or climb over these. Also, loose railings pose a danger to people who lean on them and the railings give in, resulting to a fall.
The railing height should be such that children can not easily climb over and fall.
Also, a height of over 1.2m is strategic in that it discourages people from sitting or leaning on the rail since its slightly higher than the waist level.
Railings on balconies are a good place for rescue in case of fire. Design should be such that in case of a fire breakout, occupants can easily move from floor to floor using the balcony railings as support.
2.What are the penalties for owners of buildings who do not adhere to rules?
In developed countries such as USA, when occupants are injured due to faulty building parts, the responsibility is first shifted to the architect to explain what went wrong. If the building owner is found to ave neglected the maintenance of the building, then he is held liable. If the architect did not supervise the railing fixing, where ample hooks were properly embedded into the wall and floor slab strongly. With newer construction technologies eg prefab walling, this can pose a challenge in terms of proper anchorage.
Penalties in developed countries include both civil and criminal liabilities. In Kenya, we have still not fully embraced consumer protection laws but with the new National construction authority, we will start seeing consumers/tenants being taken care of to prevent unnecessary injuries due to poor building construction methods. In Kenya, we are yet to see a tenant or building occupant take the route of suing the building owner due to injuries from poor building methods. Poor detailing of stairs, for example, where one stair height is uneven and different from the other,, usually result in dangerous falls in apartment buildings where the occupants simply take care of themselves without taking the route of suing the building owner, as in the case of developed countries. With time, occupants will slowly know their rights and will start demanding compensation from poor building construction that results to injuries. Also, its very common for school roofs to be blown by wind, in the process, the timber trusses injuring occupants. In such cases, the issue is reported only in the media but no one is put to task to compensate the injured. In developed countries, the building developer and architect could be put to task to explain why the roof anchorage did not include wind force.
3.Which parts of Nairobi are most affected?
The low income housing areas of Nairobi eg Kayole and Mathare North are mostly affected. This is due to the lack of technical supervision and also lack of Nairobi City Council building inspectors intervention. In these areas, the lands are not titled, usually held in share certificates so when developers would like to seek Nairobi City Council building plan approvals, there is a requirement that the land must have a title hence due to huge demand for housing, the developers usually just go ahead without involving the Nairobi County approvals. Its High time the Nairobi County resolves the land ownership issues and allows property owners with share certificates to submit their building plans, thereby ensuring occupants are safe once county development control officials bring in some sense of standards in the construction process.
4.Is there any landlord who has been prosecuted for not following the regulations?
Internationally, in most developed countries, this is usually the order of the day. No developer cna risk to construct without the intervention of architects to check on quality control.
In Kenya and most other African countries, we are yet to reach the level where building occupants know their rights and put pressure on the landlord in case of injury. Once the land lord is pressured, he then learns that to avoid this, he needs to involve technical intervention from architects and engineers as he builds the next building or he renovates the existing ones.
Francis Gichuhi Kamau, Architect.