A Brief History
In 1990 a multi-storey building in Dagoretti collapsed killing one person and injuring a few others.
Six years later in 1996, Sunbeam building located along Moi Avenue collapsed killing 35 people, marking the beginning of major building collapses in the country which have continued to plague the country over the past 25 years since that first incident.
The misfortune prompted the formation of a commission of inquiry to examine the existing building laws and regulations in Kenya at the time.
To date, there are 87 building collapses on record which have resulted in 170 documented deaths. The year 2016 had the highest number of fatalities at 63, the highest ever recorded in one year. This occurred following the April 30th collapse of a seven-storey building in Nairobi’s Huruma Estate, that claimed 52 lives.
Following the event, the National Construction Authority initiated a research on the “Failure and Collapse of Buildings in the Construction Industry of Kenya”.
The study which was sanctioned by the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, was informed by notable structural failures and collapses around the country.
The findings of the study were released in May of 2018 in time as the country’s affordable housing project was preparing for take-off.
As the state continues the implementation of the Affordable Housing Agenda, it is critical to examine the causes of building failures and adopt the mitigation measures proposed by the report.
Findings show that the common thread with all building collapses has been due to negligence/laxity among actors, unstable grounds, use of low-quality concrete and unapproved modification made by clients without requisite approvals.
Other factors include poor workmanship, use of substandard material, weak foundation, failure of formwork, inadequate propping, accident by vehicle, fires, landslides, heavy rains and introduction of basements beneath foundation level.
The report also noted that documentation of collapses in the country has been erratic.
Related; NCA on why buildings collapse
Three recommendations stand out from the report, the first being the adoption of a one-stop shop for development approvals and the associated revenue collections.
Accordingly, Kisumu and Nairobi, as well as other State agencies in the construction industry, have been piloting a ‘one-stop-shop’ model for approvals and payments which upon success will be replicated in other counties.
The second recommendation was to boost technical capacity in the industry by increasing institutional resources in order to grow numbers of construction staff professionals, technicians and artisans in the industry.
Third, the report recommended a review of the NCA Act 2011 and its regulations, and anchoring of various building regulations in the same Act. The proposed amendments to the Act are currently under review in the Authority’s parent ministry.
The initiation of the affordable housing agenda, the country’s most ambitious housing project since the independence, brings to fore the significance of implementing these recommendations.
With half a million houses projected to be constructed in the next few years, structural deficiencies are extremely undesirable.