Until another collapsed building raises blame games

The Kenya Engineers Board has warned that the construction sector will not achieve Vision 2030 aspirations owing to risky growth.

The body says it is concerned by collapsing, sinking and cracking buildings as well as those that continue to be built illegally on public utility lands.

In a press briefing, the board said the sector is “a mass of confusion devoid of professionalism” and that most buildings in the country “cannot pass structural integrity test”.

SEE ALSO :Engineers urged to uphold integrity in their work

The board said the fear was that if an earthquake measuring six on the Ritcher scale were to hit some urban estates, the destruction would be unthinkable.

“We are very close to a geological fault, which is the Rift Valley. We have volcanic mountains and if a quake emanates from such places, most buildings will come tumbling down and present us with a major human disaster,” it said.

The press statement signed by Eng Michael Gitau said the Kenya Bureau of Standards has failed in regulating quality of building materials while developers have bypassed professional engineers in favour of quacks and brokers.

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“Building materials have deteriorated, especially cement and steel, which forms the bulwark of structural safety and stability,” he said.

He further cited acute shortage of engineers in the country as a hindrance towards attaining real estate safety towards Vision 2030.

“Currently we have 10,373 engineering graduates since 1963. Of these, 6,467 are for the real estate sector but only 1,253 are registered to practice as certified professionals,” he said.

“The ratio for engineers and citizens currently stands at one engineer for 24,500 citizens as opposed to the desired one for 500.”

And Forum for Restoration of Professional Engineering in Kenya (Forpe), through its Organising Secretary Martin Aluga, accused the government of undermining professional bodies mandated to secure the industry.

“Kenyan engineers under Forpe have identified a number of challenges in the sector, including the deterioration of professionalism, discrimination, inadequate training and mentorship, poor remuneration, poor regulatory framework, political influence and accreditation challenges that are making it difficult to practice professional engineering,” said Aluga.

Public Works Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa told Home & Away that existing and emerging challenges in the construction industry can be minimised by concluding the development of an e-construction permit system, building audits and mitigating incidences of structural collapses.

He said any proposed legislation reform should not be in conflict with existing legislative instruments.

The PS said challenges in the industry are due to lack of harmony in the agencies mandated to regulate the sector. Kihalangwa vouched for the National Construction Authority’s strengthening to address challenges arising from professional negligence and the lack of compliance to statutory provisions.

Engineer Mairura Omwenga, chairman of the Town Planning Chapter of the Architectural Association of Kenya, says uncoordinated plans that have allowed buildings to “just haphazardly sprout out like mushrooms” are to blame.

“We have witnessed collapsing of buildings under construction, flooding due to destruction of the environment, illegal alienation of government land and mushrooming of unplanned settlements,” he said.

“We are privy to statistics showing that only 48 per cent of the buildings recently audited met the minimum standards while 52 per cent were having defects which could be rectified by the owners,” said Kihalangwa.

Engineering consultant in town planning Geoffrey Mungai told Home & Away that county governments should be supported with technical logistics to come up with spatial plans that will instill order in development controls, approvals and inspections.

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