YVONNE’S TAKE: The death of building regulations

YVONNE’S TAKE: The death of building regulations

  • The issue of safety of buildings in Kenya is one that is too familiar.
  • Quite frankly, it would be a tired script, were it not for the fact that people die, lose their livelihood, get injured, and some lose their precious belongings.

Another week, another month, another catastrophe. Needless deaths. Gone far too soon. We know the cycle, lives lost, government authorities talk tough. Buildings are evacuated, demolished. For a short time only, politicians dust off old scripts, they rush to the scene, assess the damage, offer assistance, praise courage of the affected, promise to learn lessons, threaten stern action and then go back to their scheduled activities for the day.

The issue of safety of buildings in Kenya is one that is too familiar. Quite frankly, it would be a tired script, were it not for the fact that people die, lose their livelihood, get injured, and some lose their precious belongings.

Let me run you through some statistics. In the year 2021, the National Construction Authority recorded 22 cases of buildings collapsing. Who knows how many others could have gone unreported? And Kiambu was in the lead with 6 cases. From what I have seen so far in 2022, Kiambu may yet again top those charts. The big question always is, who is responsible? You see, what is frustrating in this country is that we know what to do. We also know who is supposed to do it, yet nothing gets done. I have done an explainer on this before, but for the sake of time, I will run through some highlights of how it all works.

From approvals of drawings, architectural and structural approvals that are done by both national and county governments, to environmental impact assessments that must be carried out by the National Management Authority and even the National Construction Authority (NCA) that then checks that all of these approvals have been obtained before issuing compliance certification. Contractors and sub-contractors who must be registered with the NCA, to quantity surveyors and architects who must be certified by their respective boards. But it goes beyond those pre-construction approvals.

During the construction phase, there is supposed to be continuous supervision by government checking that there is a registered contractor on-site at all times. After the construction is complete, the county government comes to do an inspection, and if satisfied, they issue the developer with an occupation certificate, meaning it is now fit for occupation.

The State department of works in the national government is responsible for setting up management of building and construction standards and codes and regulates the industry through its various agencies. The county government is responsible for site inspection during and after construction ensuring fire safety and health is maintained at the site and also issues the occupancy permits, and this is done at ward level. Yet, fellow Kenyans, even with all these checks and balances in place, we still have innocent Kenyans dying in buildings?

So, what is the problem? Everyone clearly knows what to do. So why do we have them hopping from one rubble site to another, feigning shock and disbelief and grief? Why do we have them talking tough, after the fact? It is great that the developer of the building in Kiambu County that killed a lovely couple in a nearby home was arrested, apparently attempting the leave the country, but at what cost? A lovely elderly couple, living out their retirement in peace lost their lives senselessly because everyone who could have done something to prevent these needless deaths, did nothing.

Folks, all the entities I have listed here, at both national and county levels, have blood on their hands. Let us have no more tough talk, no more rushing to the scene with relief supplies for the affected. Protect the lives and property of Kenyans who have entrusted you and paid you to do it. Basically, just do your job.

That is my take!

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NCA Kiambu County Buildings collapse

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