Developers must adhere to rules to stem building collapses

The challenge for counties is to ensure all developers comply with building approval regulations.

In Summary

• A structural audit of all ongoing construction projects has been instituted.

• The County is also requesting developers who are building without approval to apply for approval.

Building in Kinoo that collapsed before being demolished by authorities on September 3, 2021.
Building in Kinoo that collapsed before being demolished by authorities on September 3, 2021.

The collapse of two buildings in Kiambu County over the last two weeks while under construction at Gachie Kiambaa and Kinoo in Kikuyu respectively, has once again cast the spotlight on control of the mushrooming real estate industry and the engagement of professionals and use of quality material while implementing the projects.

Although a County multi sectoral committee investigation involving National Construction Authority, Institute of Engineers of Kenya, Architectural Association of Kenya, Kenya Institute of Planners and the County Commissioner is ongoing, preliminary investigations show the two developers failed to involve professionals during implementation of their projects.

The multi sectoral committee will guide on the approaches the County is to put in place to enforce notices and ensure full compliance with the laid down regulations by the developers. 

A structural audit of all ongoing construction projects has been instituted and developments seen to be failing to meet structural integrity will be brought down upon recommendation of the County Multi Sectorial Committee. The County is also requesting developers who are building without approval to apply for approval to avert future collapse and/or demolitions.

Acting Director of Physical Planning in Kiambu, Charles Macharia says the directorate will also hold ward based public participation forums to educate the public on the need to involve professionals while building and the importance of the application approval process.

Investigation also show the now demolished Kinoo building despite being approved by the County Government was being implemented contrary to approved designs, with addition of an extra floor and both vertical and horizontal extensions.

The fatal Gachie building also showed poor workmanship, poor quality of concrete and the slabs failed to cure due to rush in development. Curing requires a minimum of 28 days for a building to gain full design strength but the developer had constructed 5 floors within two months.

The Gachie developer who will be taken to court following the death of three people and injury to several others, had not obtained building approvals from the County Government of Kiambu as the law dictates and it now turns out that he had actually been issued with two stop notices, one dated May 7, 2021 when the building was at foundation level and the other on July 7, 2021 as the works progressed.  

In the May notice, the Kiambaa Sub County Planner instructed the immediate stoppage of further construction noting that there were no approved building plans in existence. He advised the developer to submit approved drawings to the county government for approval, before he could continue with the development.

Subsequently, on May 13 2021, the developer made an application to the County Government, but the plans were not approved as he did not comply with the requirements. But that notwithstanding, he proceeded with the development

In the July notice, the developer was instructed to stop further development and provide proof of building approvals. He defied the notice and proceeded with construction and a month later the building collapsed. Unfortunately, this is the second building to collapse within Kiambu County this year and both developers had turned a blind eye to professional advice.

The Physical and Land Use Planning Act 2019, Urban Areas and Cities Act 2011 and the County Governments Act 2012 give County Governments power to prohibit or control the use and development of land and buildings in the interest of proper, orderly, optimal land use, protect and conserve the environment, promote public safety and health, and promote public participation within their jurisdictions.

Kiambu County is among the most urbanized Counties in Kenya with a population of 1.6 million people living in urban areas and it’s also the second most populated County after Nairobi, a situation that has resulted in a residential development boom to satisfy the housing demand.

With its proximity to Nairobi, Kiambu has in the recent past become a real estate investment hub enabled by rapid infrastructural development and availability of cheaper land compared to Nairobi.

Apart from the traditional urban areas such as Thika, Ruiru and Kiambu, urbanization has spread to other traditionally rural zones such as Kabete, Kikuyu and Limuru.

The situation has been heightened by the eastern, southern, northern and western bypasses that criss-cross the County and has led to intensive development along the way.

With an estimated 400 applications being processed by the County government every month, the challenge is with the County department of Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development to ensure all developers comply with its building approval regulations.

The Kiambu County Executive Committee Member in charge of this department Mr. Samuel Mugo says building plans, sub-divisions and amalgamations, renewal of leases, change of user/extension of use, and outdoor advertisements have to be approved by the County Government.

According to Mr. Macharia, approvals are done through an online system by registered and licensed Architects, Structural Engineers and Physical Planners and it takes 7 to 30 days for approval to be granted or denied.

The applicant has to provide a copy of ownership document (Title Deed/Lease Certificate), current land search, current land rates clearance certificate and Survey Map/ Approved sub-division plan.

As per the County procedures, the Gachie developer would have contacted the services of a registered and licenced architect to do a design for his development. The Architect would have submitted the drawings together with other relevant documents to the county, upon which an invoice would have been generated for the developer.

On receipt of payment, the application would have been forwarded to the County technical committee for deliberations and approval. The committee can upon further evaluation fail to approve the application with reasons and the applicant is at liberty to launch an appeal with the liaison committee or the Land and environment Court.

The developer required the services of a structural Engineer, as approval of structural drawings ensure the expected vertical load of the structure is supported and thus not prone to collapse.

Experts say that development plans may also fail to be approved where the required documents have not been provided, if the land is in dispute, if the proposal is in conflict with the neighbourhood or if the proposal does not comply with the existing county land policy and zoning guidelines.

Plans can be disapproved by failure by the Consultant Architect or Engineer to address comments raised in time and non-compliance with the planning and building code standards such as adequate lighting; ventilation; room sizes; parking requirements etc.

Upon approval and to ensure compliance with the approved drawing, the developer is required to apply to the County for inspection of the ongoing development at each stage, comply with requirements of National Environment and Management Authority and National Construction Authority.


Kanari is the Public Communications Officer - County Government of Kiambu