County Approval of Building Plan in Kenya. Room size regulations.
Rules and regulations that govern room sizes.
Room sizes are governed by the Kenya Building code and subsequent bye laws passed by the County Government assembly MCAs into laws.
The Kenya Building code describes the minimum dimensions and sizes for habitable rooms in residential buildings, class rooms, ware houses etc.
Size rooms in rental apartments.
For rental apartments, room sizes are determined by the minimum sizes set out in the building code. Once the architect completes designing the building, he submits the drawings to the County Government Planning department for them to see if the building meets the minimum room size criteria set out in the bye laws. If the building meets the guidelines, an approval to construct is issued.
Number of units per apartment
The number of units in an apartment is also designed by the architect and the drawings submitted for approval to the relevant County Planning department. Each County has its own unique sets of bye laws that they use to determine if the number of units within a given plot size is adequate. In town centers, more units per plot size is allowed. In areas further away from commercial town centers, the areas are zoned for 1 or a few residential units per the plot size. For example, in Karen, only 1 residential dwelling is allowed for a 0.5 acre plot. In Kilimani or Upper Hill areas, the same half are plot can carry up to 100 housing units, stacked up vertically in 10 to 20 floor levels.
Distance from one apartment to the other.
The Kenya Building Code and County bye laws determine distance from one window of an apartment to another. This distance is needed to allow for privacy and also to let in natural light and ventilation. This is also important in preventing spread of fire in case the building catches fire.
Shared infrastructure such as stairs, lighting in shared walkways etc
County planning bye laws, Building Code, and the County Planner discretion is what guides upon these shared infrastructure.
For Counties such as Nairobi where the Planning departments have Fire Officers, there is a further request for fire escape staircases to be located at the furthest point from the main stair case. This is to ensure that in case of fire, occupants will be able to get to safety easily.
For high end apartments, the developer is able to reduce as much as possible the shared infrastructure such as stairways so as to make it more comfortable for the occupants. This will result in a higher rent, hence most apartments in High cost areas such as Upperhill, Kilimani, Kileleshwa are designed this way and the developers recoup through higher rents.
Are developers observing these requirements?
For Nairobi and Kiambu Counties, building plan approval is done online. This helps to reduce the chances of developers trying to use shortcuts for plan approvals and hence circumvent the bye laws set to ensure buildings are safe and comfortable for human habitation. Kajiado and Machakos counties, which surround the capital City, hence have a lot of construction going on, should follow suit and take in Online building plan approval processes, hence less chances for developers to build using shortcuts that are not vetted by County Planners.
What should tenants look out for in- size of the living room,kitchen,rest rooms , bedroom(s)
Tenants should look out for well lit and well ventilated rooms. The rooms should have large windows opening into the outside. The windows should have at least 5 meters of free set backs until where the opposite wall begins. This is to ensure adequate light and natural ventilation for good internal air quality.
How should the rooms be ventilated, and is this being observed?
Kenyan Building Code emphasizes on natural ventilation. THere i a way that buildings can be designed to allow for cross ventilation , ensuring the occupants are comfortable.
Some developers have circumvented this County planning department vetting. Those who have circumvented this and went ahead to build poorly ventilated buildings usually have a problem with tenancy.They end up charging lower rent than the surrounding buildings and the tenants keep moving out, resulting in lower occupancy rates.
Impact of poor ventilation.
The cost of lighting the public spaces, corridors and stairs goes high since lights have to be on during the day. This eats up onto the developer’s rental income.
The poorly ventilated houses are uncomfortable to tenants so tenants keep moving out and demanding for lower rents. Tenants also risk pulmonary diseases especially to the kids.
What should developers do to ensure there is even distribution of light, fresh air and proper ventilation, especially on ground and first floor units?
Developers need to identify properly qualified Architects to design their buildings. After this, Developers need to ensure they follow the right method for County planning approvals where their buildings are double-checked to ensure quality of occupants, which in turn will result to better rental income for the developers.
What should a developer consider when developing rentals, to ensure that they input aspects of proper living conditions and get the return on investment they opt for?
Developers need to ensure their buildings are designed targeted to the right clientele, whether low, middle or high income clientele. Once buildings are designed to be comfortable for human habitation, this will automatically result into good return on investment for the developer.
Architect Francis Gichuhi kaamau.