Most buildings coming up across Kenya are substandard, NCA warns

National Construction Authority officials at a construction site. NCA has from last year inspected 2,000 buildings.

NAIROBI: More than half of the buildings being put up across the country are not safe for occupation, the National Construction Authority (NCA) has warned.

NCA also says many contractors are still not registering their projects with the authority, in what is adding to the mess in the construction sector, which is in dire need of proper regulation.

The authority said it has so far conducted 7,835 site visits across the country. Out of these, only 4,500 were registered. This means that at least a third of the buildings coming up are not approved for quality.

The authority says it has found more than 5,000 such cases of buildings across the country being constructed without its approval. It also claims 84 per cent of people doing the construction of projects across the country are not trained.

The NCA says it needs Sh30 billion to train at least one million artisans across the country to ensure quality projects. “In another two to three years, collapsing of buildings will be a thing of the past,” Mr Moses Nyakiongora, the secretary of the building inspectorate, said.

But what is set to shock many tenants in Nairobi is the revelation that about 52 per cent of the buildings in the capital have a problem. Nyakiongora said his department had inspected over 2,000 buildings in Nairobi and found more than half of them wanting.

“We were checking for structural safety, the health of the building and whether the economic activities of the buildings were what it was meant for as well as habitability. Half of the buildings we inspected have something wanting though most are not in any imminent danger of collapse,” he said.

He, however, warned that there are other buildings that, although they pass the test, are run down and are lacking in maintenance, a common phenomenon that is also putting the properly developed projects on the path to collapsing.

If the statistics mirror what is happening in the entire industry, then the country may be sitting on a time bomb in the construction sector.

“A few have been condemned and demolished like in the cases of buildings in Mathare and Kahawa West,” Nyakiongora said. Last year, 17 buildings that collapsed across the country, among them bridges and residential houses.

The authority says it is pursuing some of these cases in court and where there were deaths, the cases have now been taken over by the State, since they became criminal in nature. The NCA has been pushing for registration of all buildings in the country.

But the registration fees have seen it meet resistance from players in the sector on grounds that it is adding a new cost to the sector. At the moment, buildings valued at Sh5 million and above attract a 0.5 per cent fee, while those valued less than Sh5 million are exempt. NCA, however, maintains that the fees are still on the lower side and will not meet its funding requirements even if there was total compliance in the industry.

“If there is 100 per cent compliance, we will only be able to raise about Sh2 billion against our requirement of Sh30 billion. This is not even enough and that is why we are talking to the Government to see if we can get additional funding,” said NCA Executive Director Daniel Manduku.

The authority says it has so far registered 18,551 contractors across the country and accredited another 148,290 skilled construction workers. It targets to bring this number to half a million by the end of the year.

The NCA Chairman Steven Oundo asked tenants to start demanding from their landlords occupation certificates to be sure that the buildings they are occupying meet the required standards. This comes at a time when the construction sector has also been hit by the use of substandard building materials as contractors seek to cut corners and spend less.