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County Brings Down Illegal Structures

The County Government of Nakuru has raised a red flag over mushrooming of construction buildings without approval in the past one month by private developers taking advantage of ‘distraction’ caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
Land, Housing and Physical Planning Chief Officer JudyLeah Waihenya said as the Country concentrates on fighting the spread of the coronavirus, dozens of buildings not safe for occupation were coming within residential estates in Nakuru without the approval of the county and other regulatory bodies.
“Some developers have taken advantage of reduced or absence of enforcement officers on the ground and are now putting up buildings in total disregard of the zoning policy, which gives guidelines on how many floors a structure should have, and the maximum number of buildings allowed in a certain zone.
Unapproved structures cause a strain on resources such as water and drainage systems, roads, lighting and security.
They are also a nightmare in offering vital services such as garbage collection. At Kivumbini Estate within Nakuru-East Sub-County we found one unapproved structure being constructed on public land,” noted Ms Waihenya.
She warned that her department would sustain audit inspection of buildings to ascertain their structural safety, their habitability and whether the economic activities of the buildings were what they were intended for.
Ms. Waihenya reiterated that even as the devolved unit redeployed financial resources and manpower to battle spread of the Coronavirus, it had revived inspection and safety audit of all buildings in the region in collaboration with National Building Inspectorate (NBI) that kicked off last year.
“We have reactivated a pool of well-trained County Planners, Development Control Officers, Building Inspectors and Structural Engineers that has commenced a field assessment of ongoing construction and recently completed building structures before a detailed forensic audit is undertaken on building structures which will require further specialized tests.
The County administration is determined to get rid of rogue developers and engineers who are taking advantage of Covid-19 crisis to build substandard and risky structures. The audit exercise is running concurrently with enforcement of laws on non-compliant building structures. Safety audit will also be conducted,” stated the chief officer.
Ms Waihenya asked tenants to start demanding from their landlords occupation certificates to be sure that the buildings they are occupying meet the required standards.
She called on tenants to look out for problems like visible cracks; doors that do not lock properly; windows that jam, meaning there is a shift in the structure; broken pavements, meaning the columns are puncturing the ground; and crooked beams, which are structural failures showing that a building is not safe.
This comes at a time when the construction sector has also been hit by the use of substandard building materials as contractors seek to cut construction costs to save more.
The Chief Officer said her department had also cracked the whip on developers changing material specifications, using the wrong proportions for concrete, and using substandard or inadequate materials, a situation she said seriously compromised the strength of a building.
She attributed leading causes of collapsed buildings to shoddy and rushed up construction work, sub-standard materials, incompetent workmen and corrupt building inspectors who approved and issued compliance documents to owners of risky structures.
“Urbanization brings about substantial amount of new construction. However, in most cases there are limited building control measures due to limited capacity of institutions to ensure safety of buildings.
We want to ensure there is quality workmanship and safety in the houses our people live in,” added the Chief Officer.
National Building Inspectorate was established in 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta following the collapse of several buildings in the country.
Its mandate includes carrying out building inspection and audit of existing structures as well as taking necessary measures to safeguard public safety in the building industry.
The chief officer noted that in some instances after getting professionals to design a building — which is subsequently approved by the county government, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the National Construction Authority — some developers drop the consultants, who should supervise every stage of the construction, in order to cut costs.
“After getting the necessary approvals, some developers disregard the professional opinion from engineers, architects, quantity surveyors and contractors. Others even go to the extent of building by themselves.
Most of us know of instances in this country where some developers had buildings with a foundation of three stories, but they increased them to as many as five as construction works proceeded,” said Ms Waihenya.
She warned that the department was on the lookout for such illegal structures and will not hesitate to bring them down.
By Anne Mwale

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