AAK wants buildings audited for safety

June 21, 2011 11:32 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 21- The Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) has reiterated its call to the Ministry of Local Government to outsource the auditing of all buildings in urban towns to determine their safety.

Coming in the wake of frequent collapse of buildings under construction in various parts of the country, AAK Chairman Steven Oundo opined that this should be done through a sampling method after which structures that are found to be wanting should be demolished.

"If we say we audit all buildings, that is an enormous task but we had suggested that we take an area and inspect 100 houses. From that you will find buildings that never had approvals, those that require some reinforcements or those that need to be brought down," he explained.

AAK which is the professional body that brings together architects, quantity surveyors, town planners, engineers and environmental design consultants among others has in the past proposed an audit but it has been ignored.

Mr Oundo understands that the municipal councils lack the capacity to conduct a comprehensive assessment hence the proposal to contract third parties to undertake the exercise.

For instance, the City Council of Nairobi (CCN) has five architects and nine planners who cannot keep up with the growing number of developments around the city.

The AAK Chairman said the government needs to demonstrate seriousness in curbing this vice by for instance hiring more qualified professionals in the local councils.

The second step he argued would be to fight corruption in the councils whose personnel are bribed to turn a blind eye as developers and contractors flout construction regulations.

"We have cartels in the industry and there are areas that even the City Council officials who are mandated to get to all these sites cannot access because they get stoned and blocked from doing their job," Mr Oundo regretted.

The disregard for the law has also seen some developers put up multiple storeys where only two or three floors have been approved.

To reign in on such rogue contractors and unscrupulous developers, he appealed to Parliament to play its role and fast track the enactment of bills such as the Building Code Bill. Doing so for instance would compel developers to put up site sign boards when developing a structure.

While decrying the culture of doing the wrong things that Kenyans seems to have embrace, Mr Oundo warned that this practice would catch up with such contractors especially after the City Council of Nairobi made known its intention to demolish buildings that do not meet its standards of approval.

Although he admitted that this might exacerbate the housing shortage in the market and even probably result in a hike of rental costs in the short term, he held that this would help to bring back sanity in the industry.

"I look at it as a stage of two steps back to make three steps forward. The net effect would be that we would have better housing and housing that is humane. It will also make us take the law seriously," the architect asserted.

While this situation puts a spotlight on the government\’s failure to provide safe, decent and affordable housing to its population, he challenged it to urgently come up with a plan that will enable Kenyans to access this right as provided for in the constitution.

The government he proposed should also strive to provide incentives for the private sector to lend a hand by for example facilitating the development of physical and social housing infrastructure such as electricity, water and sewer lines.

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