Several property developers in Nairobi have been ordered to stop construction of commercial buildings for failing to meet government regulations.
In a campaign it launched on Friday to ensure developers met the regulations, the National Construction Authority (NCA) found out that cowboy contractors were involved in construction work.
The two-month campaign came in the wake of collapse of several buildings in Nairobi, the latest of which involved a seven-storey building in Huruma, barely two weeks after a similar incident in Makongeni.
“Every building must be constructed by a contractor who is registered by the National Construction Authority,” said NCA Senior Investigator Chrispus Ddinyo, who led a team of colleagues on a tour of Thika Road neighbourhoods where the campaign was launched.
By Friday evening, the team had ordered developers of six buildings under construction in the area to stop work due to violation of housing regulations.
One of these regulations requires a property owner to put up a signboard at the construction site, showing all professionals undertaking the entire work.
These include the main contractor, the structural engineer and the architect who has designed the building.
“These are the professionals we follow when a buildings collapses or develops problems,” he said.
The number of the plot where the construction is taking place must also be indicated on the signboard as well as clearance from the National Environment Management Authority.
Another requirement is for those doing the construction work to have protective gears like helmets and gumboots.
Meanwhile, City Hall plans to audit all houses in zones where the Housing Development Department (HDD) had been issuing construction approvals to bring them up to standard.
The audit will start on January 22, according to a public notice published in the dailies yesterday.
Houses in Huruma, Mathare North, Makongeni/Kaloleni, Embakasi Pipeline, Tassia II and III, Kayole, Kariobangi Light Industries, Baba Dogo, Dandora, Kawangware, Kangemi Zimmerman, Githurai, Mwiki/Kasarani, which were classified under high density residential areas were meant to cater for the ballooning informal settlements.
However, corrupt officials and unscrupulous developers took advantage of the burst in informal area populations to provide cheap but substandard housing.
DISPLAY APPROVAL PLAQUES
County Planning and Housing Committee Executive Tom Odongo said storey buildings in Nairobi might soon be forced to display approval plaques from City Hall, declaring their safety standards.
During the campaign launch on Friday, most of workers found at construction sites had no idea about these requirements.
They only produced the architectural and structural plans for the building but were not aware whether the contractor undertaking the construction work was registered with NCA or not.
NCA officers marked buildings whose contractors violated the regulations and shut down the construction site.
Mr Ddinyo said they were working jointly with different government agencies to ensure further construction did not take place until the property developer complied with the regulations.
“We went round the country last year training contractors and other stakeholders in the building sector on the new regulations,” Mr Ddinyo told journalists at one of the construction sites.
He added: “We are working with the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions to make sure that the property owners complied with the law.”
He warned the property owners that they risked arrest and prosecution if they fail to comply with the NCA directive.
VEILED IN SECRECY
Tomorrow we will come again to see if there is any construction going on,” he said.
However some of the property owners told journalists that they were not aware of the regulations and accused NCA of failing to sensitise all the stakeholders on the new law that was crafted in 2011.
Mr Robert Mbatia, the County Assembly Public Accounts Committee chairman, said operations at HDD were veiled in secrecy and bureaucracy.
“We recommended that HDD be closed down and all the approval files reviewed,” Mr Mbatia told the Nation.
Mr Odongo confirmed that the county close down HDD and would gazette areas under the department so that better architectural standards can be adopted.
The county would run tests on structural, habitability, health, fire and emergency preparedness and give landlords a chance to bring their buildings to standard.
The owners will be required to hire professionals and submit compliance report to get an approval plaque at a fee that is yet to be determined..
The plaques will have a security element to ensure they are not counterfeited to help tenants identify which buildings are safe to occupy.
Buildings that do not meet expected standards will however be brought down while those that have been inhabited before completion will be vacated.
The audit is also expected to weed out bogus contractors who have been blamed for building incidents in the city due to inadequate construction material ratios, incompetent design and poor workmanship.