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Architects question State’s lower building costs claims

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Summary

  • Architects are questioning the government’s claim that construction costs have dropped by 61.5 percent in four years, arguing that there is evidence contrary to the claim.
  • The data stating that building costs declined sharply between 2015 and last year was recently disclosed by the State Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Architects are questioning the government’s claim that construction costs have dropped by 61.5 percent in four years, arguing that there is evidence contrary to the claim.

The data stating that building costs declined sharply between 2015 and last year was recently disclosed by the State Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The department said in the report that the cost of construction per one metre square currently stands at approximately Sh25,000, down from approximately Sh65,000 recorded in 2017.

The reduced in building costs was linked to cheaper materials and innovations in the building industry. Another reason offered is that access to cheaper construction materials such as gypsum, for instance, has also helped lower construction costs by reducing reliance on wood which is more expensive.

The latest Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) Status of the Built Environment report, however, says the claims of cheaper building costs needs interrogation.

The figures from the State Department of Housing and Urban Development nevertheless gives rise to fundamental questions as relates to the validity and reliability of the data relied upon,” the report for the six months to December says.

“A back-of-the-hand calculation comparing 2020’s building rates with the building costs in 2021, revealed that; overall, construction costs in Kenya have increased by up to 0.34 percent in some areas such as Nairobi to as much as 3.89 percent in other areas such as Kakamega and Kisumu.”

The association added that the cost increase is due to the weakening of the shilling against major world currencies, making imported building materials more expensive.

In 2017, the local currency traded at 103.38 units to the dollar but had depreciated to 113 units to the greenback at the end of last year.

Most of the depreciation occurred from early 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country’s economy including receipt from tourism.

“In addition, the rising prices in steel prices as we highlighted in the first half of 2021, further makes it debatable as to the possibility of a decline in cost of construction,” the association said.