Sections of Pipeline Estate (PHOTO: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI)

Lilian Auma* lives on the top floor of a high-rise building in Pipeline Estate, Nairobi.

For four years now, the 38-year-old single mother of three has had to endure the daily routine of going up and down the eight flights of stairs to and from her single-roomed house.

The fact that there is no water supply to the houses and residents have to rely on two shared water points located on the second and third floors means her daily trips up and down the stairs can be countless on any given day.   

“Whenever we complain, the landlord tells us that we are free to relocate to another building,” said Ms Auma.

But her meagre income cannot allow her to move houses.

Her predicament, however, is not unique to her. Many residents of the sprawling estate in Embakasi South Constituency, and which is about 20km from the Nairobi’s Central Business District, are stuck with the water problem and having to go up and down many flights of stairs to access the basics.

“Many of the houses within this area are just the same, lacking water and without lifts,” said Auma.  

The same goes for many residential buildings in Nairobi, especially in the congested Eastlands area, with some going as high as 10 floors.

Amani Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, while serving as Local Government Minister in 2011, issued an order for that storey buildings beyond four floors and without lifts be brought down. He had gone to a scene of a collapsed building in Lang’ata, Nairobi.

The order was, however, never enforced. Besides lacking lifts, many buildings in most urban centres, especially in Nairobi, flout many construction codes. Many are unfit for occupation.

One provisional survey by the Architectural Association of Kenya showed that only six in every 10 new buildings in Nairobi meet set requirements. 

But the trend is changing within the Embakasi South Constituency, with some developers now installing small capacity lifts in their buildings.

Most of them are new developments off Outering Road, near Fedha Estate, and East Africa Aviation College in Embakasi.

They compromise bedsitters, studio and one-bedroom apartments. The developers are using social media platforms to advertise the new units.

They include Semi Apartment 3, which now advertises bedsitters and one-bedroom units, and Faustina Suites, that comprises modern studio units.

The latter is an eight-floor building and comes complete with lifts, free DSTV, Wi-Fi, a biometric access system for the main door, a rooftop bar and lounge and a laundry area, among other features.

Next to Faustina Suites is Tsavo Studios by Tsavo Lifestyle Ltd, which consists of 248 units comprising bedsitters, studio and one-bedroom apartments.

“We thought it was good to ease movement of tenants since some of the buildings have eight floors,” Joseph Mwenda, a property manager at Tsavo Lifestyle, told Home And Away, adding: “We wish every developer would consider an open space where people can sit and talk and install lifts because it will make life easier for residents”.

On the rooftop of Tsavo Studios is a chill spot where residents can enjoy a game of pool and a bite from a fast-food restaurant. However, the additional amenities come at an extra cost, with the monthly rent for a bedsitter ranging between Sh12,000 and Sh15,500 compared to ordinary ones that go for between Sh7,000 and Sh10,000.

Donholm in Embakasi West has also began to have such modern houses.

According to Alen Bedada, a property manager with Salute Greenpark Apartments on Manyanja Road, the additions such as lifts are meant to give tenants value for money.

“The lift has helped increase our occupancy to 90 per cent in one of the units we completed five years ago,” said Mr Bededa.

In February 2014, the then Nairobi County’s Planning and Housing Chief Executive Tom Odongo said the County Government had embarked on a process to identify high-rise buildings flouting the Building Code by not having lifts.

This, however, never gained traction. The National Construction Authority (NCA) is counting on the Building Code that has now been anchored under the National Construction Authority Act through the Business Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020, to ensure high-rise buildings have elevators.

Public participation 

“The review and development of the Draft Building Regulations (Building Regulations), 2020, under the National Construction Authority Act is ongoing in line with the legislative process as per the Constitution of Kenya and the Statutory Instruments Act 2013. The next stage of development is subjecting the Building Code regulations to public participation and stakeholder engagement in due course,” said NCA Executive Director and Registrar of Contractors Maurice Akech.

He added: “The authority has been enshrined with the mandate to enforce the Building Code in the construction industry upon its adoption by Parliament. With regard to the enforcement on lifts, it proposes as follows under 221: A building comprising at least six storeys above the ground level shall have at least one passenger lift.”

The Authority distanced itself from the duty of enforcing the installation of lifts in high-rise city buildings, saying it is the duty of the county government.

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