Last week a building collapsed in Huruma area of Nairobi city, killing 33 people and leaving over 80 others missing.
I have documented building collapse of buildings around Nairobi since 2011, namely
Langata Southern Bypass colapse in June 2011
Mwiki Kasarani Building colapse in February 2012
Mlolongo Building colapse in June 2014
Kaloleni Jogoo rad Building colapse in December 2014
All these buildings have one thing in common as the reason for failure, the failure by the county government planning department to enforce building standards.
This is a similar observation around the world where the Local governments who have the responsibility to maintain standards have failed.
The 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed over 100, 000 people was blamed largely to the lack of Haiti Local Government to enforce the standards.
But much of the Caribbean, including Haiti, has no building codes, he said. “So now we need to work with the Haitian authorities to develop a building code that is suited to Haiti and its peculiar conditions.
The individual developers who actually construct the buildings hold equal blame as the County Government employees whose role is to ensure all buildings are safe in Nairobi.
Rana Plaza, Bangladesh. May 2013.
The 8 storey Building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,130 people, who were mostly working on garment factories inside the building.
The reason the building collapsed is also linked to failure by the Local Government to enforce and ensure all developers followed the correct procedures to construct their buildings.
The developers also get abit of blame but the lion’s share of the blame in the above 2 scenarios is the ineptness of the Local or County Governments in ensuring building safety.
Local and County Governments.
Internationally, the role of ensuring building safety is nested within the Local and County Government in all countries in the world.
In the Rana, Bangladesh building collapse, the Mayor was put to task over the ineptness and corruption.
In the Haiti Earthquake collapse, the Local Government Building control section took the blame. The developers ideally, being lay people in terms of construction technology, are of a lesser blame than the County Government technocrats who are bound by law to protect and ensure building safety.
June 2013 Philadelphia Building colapse.
The 4 storey building was under controlled demolition, which resulted in it falling on to the neighboring building, killing 6 people.
The Local Authority Building inspector , one week later , On June 12, 2013, Ronald Wagenhoffer, the 52-year-old City Department of Licenses and Inspections inspector responsible for inspecting the demolition site, was found dead in his truck with a gunshot to the chest. His death was ruled a suicide.
Canterbury TV Building, Australia.
This building collapsed after an earthquake in February 2011.
It was found out that the supervising engineer had fake engineering credentials so the blame was on the engineering team and the Local Authority for not noticing the mistake earlier.
1st world countries.
Death from building collapsing is one of the most painful ways of dying since the victims get trapped under the rubble for days without water and food, with injuries, and watch time pass by day by day until they die.
Government, being the sole owner of monopoly towards use of force to enforce its laws and by laws, should squarely act to reign in on irresponsible developers, but most importantly, on its employees who have been given the role of ensuring building safety.
In most 1st world countries eg New Zealand, Australia , Britain, USA, the strict enforcement of law by the Local Governments there is what ensures their buildings stand safe. In 3rd world countries eg Kenya, Bangladesh and Haiti, the lethargic local authority governments are the main reason we have these buildings. Assuming developers in both 1st and 3rd world countries are the same, driven by profits, only the Local County Governments can intervene.
Before the new constitution, before the NCA, buildings around Nairobi have been collapsing. This means that creation of new bodies such as County Governments and NCA is not the solution to this problem. Solution is in ensuring the County Government Building control departments have the necessary support and mechanisms to enforce building standards. Parliament can come up with laws to help in this. Parliament and Judiciary can also work together to ensure that the heads of the county governments building departments get to answer to the public on why the building standards are so low to allow for collapse. The current situation where the clueless laymen developers , plus a few low ranking inspection officers are hauled to court to answer for such huge mistakes will not help. Only officers near or at the rank of the Governors can and have the power to ensure and create systems that bring about safety.
Architect Francis Gichuhi Kamau.