Amend law to regulate building standards
The vibrant multi-billion shilling real estate sub-sector may be thriving but most of the buildings coming up do not meet the required standards.
Unless proper checks are introduced, such structures will continue claiming lives and causing serious injuries to innocent Kenyans.
For starters, several factors including ancient laws that date back 76 years ago ail the industry.
The Architects and Quantity Surveyors Act enacted in 1934, for instance, is outdated and is yet to be amended. Estimates from the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) show that slightly over 60 per cent of buildings in urban centres do not meet professional standards.
However, there is a ray of hope as Public Works Minister Chris Obure last week promised to revamp the sub sector. According to Obure, a Bill to lock out quacks from the multi-billion shilling construction industry is in the offing.
The Architects and Quantity Surveyors (Amendment) Bill 2010 seeks to address safety on buildings to ensure only professionals are in business.
The National Construction Authority will also be formed to oversee developments in the sub-sector.
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The Bill will, however, not solve all the problems behind bogus developments.
One such problem that the Bill in unlikely to tackle is the shortage of urban planners countrywide as more investors seek investments in commercial and residential real estate. Official figures show the country has a paltry 120 trained planners for a population of over 38 million while the United Nations requires a planner for every 400 people.
There are 175 municipal councils countrywide but only five — Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Thika – have town planners posted.
Low levels of training limit planning capacity but even the few with degrees in urban and region planning from three public universities — Kenyatta University, Maseno and University of Nairobi — are poorly deployed due to unclear administrative and professional procedures.
PhD holders in urban planning are even rarer, as a paltry four have managed to graduate from the University of Nairobi since 1989 and the rest from countries like the US, Germany and Britain.
Local authorities bestowed with powers to vet buildings lack capacity as the Nairobi City Council alone has 15 planners instead of the required 60. The recently admitted it had a paltry 20 building inspectors covering over 680 square kilometres.
The writer is a lawyer and journalist
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