Yesterday, 3rd August 2016, a 6 storey building collapsed in Kariobangi South, Nairobi.
On 1st of August 2016, 3 people died when a wall collapsed on them in Westlands along Brookside area.
On 22nd July 2016, 3 people died when a wall collapsed on them in Westlands near Westgate Mall.
In previous buildings, between 2010 and 2015, when this phenomenon of building collapse started becoming common in Kenya, it mostly occurred on buildings in the construction process, and mostly in low income neighbourhoods eg Kasarani, Mlolongo, Ruaka.
Check documented cases in previously collapsed buildings around Nairobi by a4architect.com below.
From late 2014/2015, completed buildings with occupants have started collapsing eg Jogoo road, Kaloleni below in December 2014
The collapsing of buildings has now jumped into high income areas, with 2 structures colapsing in Westlands within the last 1 month alone.
After the few buildings that started collapsing in 2010, the Kenya Government set up the NCA in 2011/2012.
In my opinion, the Kenya Government should have tried to learn from other developed countries on how such problems are solved. In Australia, NewZealand, USA where they are prone with earthquakes, these countries have very well functioning Municipal/Local Authority/County Government planning departments. If Kenya Government can strengthen the County Government planning departments, we can begin to solve the collapse of buildings.
Nairobi County government has a City Court set aside specially to hear and deliberate bye law issues such as building safety and approvals.It also has council askaris to enforce building bylaws and safety compliance. The thousands of meter readers, business permit receipt checkers, parking attendants all deliver intel to the city planning departments of any new and upcoming buildings for ease of compliance enforcement. Nairobi county government has offices in all the Nairobi towns , with adequate staff.
Focus by Government on County Government Planning department.
Successful governments in the rest of the world solve the problems of ensuring building safety by focusing on the county government planning department. This will be the only workable solution to prevent this collapse from continuing.
The Nairobi county planning department will need to be put to task to explain why they let developers construct without following all the laid down bylaws.If its issues to do with funding and resources, these can then be addressed.
Once the county government uses its massive structures such as human resource, courts, bye laws , prosecutorial powers etc to enforce on the developers, naturally developers will be forced to look for architects and engineers to design and supervise their projects , thereby reducing the cases of building collapse to zero. No developer wants to put in kes 20 million and above then loose all the money so they will easily follow the procedures if county government becomes aggressive in ensuring compliance. Its human nature for developers to try and save as much money if given the chance, and its the role of the county government to ensure that developers, in their pursuit of profit, deliver safe buildings to its citizens. Most developers are not experts in construction technology so the County Government should do its role by forcing these developers to seek professional services from architects and engineers, thereby ensuring buildings are safe for habitation.
Building collapse stoppage is a simple issue. When a developer uses architects and engineers to guide him through the process, design the structure and ensure and supervise the building to be built as designed, the structure can not collapse. When the County Government enforces the developers to work with architects and engineers to design and supervise structures, the outcome will be a safe building. This simple issue is what lacks in the Kenyan construction environment where County Government is not policing developers enough, hence building failure.
Currently, the problem is growing fast in a cancerous manner, now encroaching into upmarket areas where previously, developers in these areas were self-policing, producing safe structures without the need to be enforced by the County Government. The previews situation a few years back where only buildings in construction could collapse has now grown further into completed and occupied buildings. Only a pin point focus on County Governments and the resources they have towards ensuring safety of buildings can help the country move forward in ensuring safe buildings for all.
When a building collapses, the most liable is the County Government planning department. The Developer has no technical knowledge to prevent collapse. The Architects and Engineers have no powers to force the developer to construct safely since their role is only to advice the developer, who can ignore their advice . Only the County Government planning department has both technical knowledge and legal powers to force developers to build safely. Therefore, emphasis in ensuring building safety should be directed at County Government planning departments.
Architect Francis Gichuhi Kamau.