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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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Tough new rules to curb building collapse

Tough new rules to curb building collapse menace that has been frequently happening set for approval by the parliament.

The National Construction Authority (NCA) guidelines were scheduled to be presented in Parliament last year, but the House was forced to take an indefinite break to prepare for the General Elections.

The committee in charge now claims it will ask the House for permission.

A public or private developer who disregards the National Construction Authority’s (NCA) building requirements will be subject to a punishment of Sh1 million or three years in prison, per the laws.

According to the Draft National Building Code, 2020, in order to ensure public safety during all building activities, a developer must hire a registered contractor who has the technical expertise to complete the project.

“By hiring a registered contractor and having a registration system in place, citizens can have increased confidence that construction work will be done by a person who has demonstrated competency,” read the regulations.

“All construction works, contracts, or projects either in the public or private sector shall be registered with the authority in accordance with the Act,” further state the regulations.

The new rule mandates that all structures be evaluated every five years to see if they can still adapt to shifting micro- and macro-environments as well as global best practices in construction.

According to NCA, research indicating that 66% of buildings that fall are already complete and don’t have sufficient upkeep is what led to the decision to audit buildings every five years.

“Buildings have a lifecycle, after which they demand high maintenance. A study established that completed buildings comprise 66 percent of those that collapse. It implies the absence of proper maintenance and early warning of defective buildings,” the authority says.

The ministry has also pointed out that there is no proper inventory of all types of buildings in the country which could have given early warnings for those structures meeting the requirements.

“The new tough rules are national and apply to all human settlements without discrimination and segregation,” reads the code.

The new Building Code 2020 has been developed following the repeal of the Local Government Act and its replacement by the County Governments Act in 2012. Consequently, the Building Code became subsidiary legislation without a parent Act.

The Draft National Building Code, 2020 is set to replace the outdated Building Code of 1968 which was found to be inadequate, lacking adequate controls and enforcement mechanisms.

“The new code provides for construction risk management in the built environment. As a result, it is less costly to prevent disaster than to cure,” reads the new code.

The National Construction Authority told MPs last week that non-compliance with standards and regulations, gaps in the construction approval process, and poor workmanship are the main reasons buildings collapse.

Since there is no Act of Parliament to operationalize the requirement that structures undergo required inspections by trained building professionals, Parliament has been blamed for the threat.

The NCA informed MPs last year that despite enormous efforts to improve the nation’s built environment, structural failures and collapses continue to pose serious problems for the building sector.

According to NCA, dishonest developers continue to disregard fundamental building practices by using inferior materials, poor structural design, overloading the structure, and inadequate maintenance. The building will eventually collapse as the number of floors increases due to the increased pressure placed on the substructure.

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