Committee to review outdated building laws
Posted Sunday, May 3 2009 at 00:00
The newly inaugurated Building Code Review and Harmonization Committee has its work cut out as it settles down to business this week.
The committee is expected to set the stage for use of local materials, broadening the options beyond ‘brick and mortar’ that players in the housing sector have blamed for making construction a rich man’s game and locking out Kenyans of average means from owning homes.
But the committee does not have a broad latitude on this because it is also supposed to draft laws to halt sub-standard developments and make property maintenance a more regular task for developers who presently do so on a need-to basis or when ordered by the local authority.
“The outdated laws have resulted in tragedies and have been a major impediment to housing and building delivery,” said Mr Tirop Kosgey, who chairs the committee by virtue of being the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing.
He said the review team would lay a framework for modernizing Kenya’s building industry which has been lacking in effective and objective controls and enforcement mechanisms.
Dr Reuben Mutiso, a technical advisor to the committee, said the most urgent need would be to incorporate new building technologies and enforce adherence to the new laws once they are enacted.
Building experts say that while cement will remain a vital component of any construction, locally available materials and latest building technologies could help offer faster and cheaper solutions for housing in the semi-permanent segment.
Among the materials being considered are timber, UN blocks and bricks made from earth across many parts of the country. The use of eco-friendly materials for roofing like the traditional grass used for thatching will also be considered.
Presently one needs approval from local authorities to use grass for roofing within municipalities.
“We will be looking at transforming the building code from a material based document to a performance based framework of legislation,” said Dr. Mutiso.
Renowned industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria recently took issue with the building code, terming it an outdated framework, which is frustrating the realization of the dream of affordable housing provision in the country.
A building code is a set of regulations aimed at regulating and controlling standards in the building and construction sector within any city council, municipality and county councils.
The current one dates back to 1967 and is based on a 1943 document which highlighted codes applicable in England and have since been done away with or reviewed even in UK.
Lapses in legal framework and enforcement mechanisms in the current building code has resulted in the continued existence of sub-standard buildings leading to accidents which have resulted to loss of lives.
Examples include the former Sunbeam supermarket along Tom Mboya street, a high rise building along Ronald Ngala Street, a canopy at Comcraft House and a balcony of Cameo Cinema House are among the few reported cases of resulting from substandard construction and maintenance hitches in Nairobi alone.
But of key concern is the nitty-gritty regulations which form the body of the building code. The committee will be required to give provisions as to how each of the seven elements of a house is to be carried out.