27 June 2011

Kenya: Real Estate Sector Could Miss Out On Vision 2030 Goals

Nairobi — Kenya Engineers Board (KEB) has warned that the real estate sector will not achieve Vision 2030 aspirations owing to its manifest risky growth and dearth of professionals.

The board says it is concerned by collapsing, sinking and cracking buildings as well as those that continue to be built illegally on public utility land.

It says the current multiplying factor of the sector will be reversed by loss in the tourism sector as well as foreign developers shunning the country if it continues being associated with inherent risks.

The board now wants the Ministry of Local Government, which is the custodian of the building code, to carry out an extensive audit of all buildings and demolish risky ones while at the same time ensuring others do not sprout up.

In an interview, KEB chairman Michael Kamau said currently, the sector is "a mass of confusion devoid of professionalism" and that most buildings in the country "cannot pass structural integrity tests."

He said his major fear was of an earthquake measuring six on the Richter scale visiting some of the urban estates.

"We are very close to a geological fault, which is Rift Valley. We have volcanic mountains and if a quake emanates from such places, most buildings will come tumbling down, presenting us with a major human disaster," said the chairman.

Mr Kamau said while the Earthquake Code outlaws any building exceeding three floors unless the architectural design is by glass framing, there are those that are going up to eight floors.

Mr Kamau, who is also the Roads permanent secretary, said the Kenya Bureau of Standards has failed to regulate the quality of building materials while developers shun professional engineers in favour of quacks and brokers.

"Building materials quality has in some instances deteriorated, especially cement and steel which are the main elements of structural safety and stability.

"Most steel products have high carbon elements and are not malleable, hence cannot support structural weight," he said.

Mr Kamau said the sector will get some reprieve once the National Construction Authority Act is implemented next year.

"The World Bank has offered to finance its implementation and hopefully it will address issues of unprofessionalism that have continued to allow structures that are endangering Kenyans' lives," he said.

The PS said an acute shortage of engineers in the country was a big hindrance towards attaining real estate safety in line with Vision 2030.

"We have 10,373 engineers who have graduated since 1963. Of these, 6,467 are in the real estate sector but only 1,253 are registered as certified professionals," he said.

Mr Kamau said growth in the real estate sector was not commensurate with available engineering capacity, hence a major shortage in building and construction supervision manpower.

"The ratio of engineers and citizens currently stands at one engineer per 24,500 citizens when the desired ratio should be one per 500.

"It is a wake-up call for students to pursue engineering courses since they are guaranteed employment as we approach 2030," he said.

Mr Kamau said Kenya has the capacity to employ all engineers who graduate from locally approved training institutions.

He said any excess engineers could help spearhead reconstruction in neighbouring countries like Somalia and Southern Sudan.

Copyright © 2011 The Nation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.