Cost of Building Houses Set to Rise in New Plan

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    An undated image of a building under construction in Nairobi
    File
  • The cost of building houses in Kenya is set to rise as the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) pushes to set minimum fees for engineering services in the country. 

    This move has created tension between EBK and the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), which opposes the Engineers (Scale of Fees for Professional Engineering Services) Rules, 2021 proposal fronted by the engineers. 

    The watchdog argued that the proposal would make engineering services expensive and affect the market too. However, engineers have countered stating that the proposal will streamline the industry which has seen many clients hire quack professionals. 

    “In as much as the services will be costly for both the engineer and the client, the changes will be in the best interest of everyone involved,” Engineer Lewis Ndichu, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Lewison Holdings told Kenyans.co.ke

    Nine storey building that collapsed in Ruiru, Kiambu County on Sunday, October 17
    Nine storey building that collapsed in Ruiru, Kiambu County on Sunday, October 17
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    Muhia Maina

    CAK cautioned EBK that it risks facing fines and prosecution. This entails a penalty of up to 10 percent of its preceding year’s gross annual turnover, a fine of Ksh10 million and a jail term of up to five years. 

    Engineers, nevertheless, are reluctant to ensure that the proposal is effected. In their defence, setting the minimum price will ensure quality engineering services, safety and welfare of the public. According to experts, many buildings have collapsed as clients take advantage of loopholes in the industry.   

    The fees is further expected to prevent price undercutting among professional engineers. 

    Ndichu explained that clients have the tendency to rush for cheaper professionals while disregarding critical construction baselines. 

    “There is an architect and an engineer. A layman can also draw just like an architect but the drawing requires the approval of a professional engineer. The County government cannot also approve a layman’s drawing until it is certified by a professional. 

    “Once the document is approved and signed, a structural engineer ought to abide by it. However, once the papers are certified, developers get rid of these professional engineers and hire quacks or inexperienced ones,” Ndichu highlighted. 

    He added that clients only seek approval and when the damage is done, the professional engineers who were consulted are sought as they signed the documents. “This is one of the cases whereby you will hear an engineer lamenting that they were unaware of the construction nor developments.”

    The experienced CEO detailed that in as much as engineering is a skill, and one can perfect it, lacking the requisite theory and expertise is detrimental to both clients and the engineer. 

    He argued that inexperienced graduates rush to be contracted to build flats and commercials while those engineers who learnt by apprenticeship are tendered to build projects way beyond their knowledge. 

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    An undated photo of a house under construction
    File

    “For me, I used to turn down such projects in my early career. Whenever a client would insist, I would turn to consultants or bring an experienced engineer aboard. Graduates should do so. In as much as they should be given work in terms of their experience, they should also notify clients of their intention to work with consultants,” he advised. 

    Ndichu called on EBK, CBK and the National Construction Authority (NCA), the county governments and other relevant bodies to coordinate and streamline the industry. 

    He argued that clients should first consult the county governments who then approach the NCA to approve buildings, rather than clients or developers by-passing the county governments to approach NCA. 

    Meanwhile, EBK is seeking the public’s view on the Engineers (Scale of Fees for Professional Engineering Services) Rules, 2021 proposal.