Building and Construction is arguably the largest employing industrial sector in any given country. With thousands of students streaming from colleges and university all over Kenya, majority of whom have partaken of the cup of architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) studies, many wonder where their first or next job will come from. This draws me to memories of long ago when people used to hang out on a given spot in the CBD area, also famously called “jobless-corner.”
It is really painful for the youth to see their productive time of their lives wasting away in idleness with no hope for the future; no career ambition, not being able to plan and create a family or provide in their households among other things.
Probably we have been schooled on how to design or construct a building from start to finish and how to effectively handle a client’s needs and also navigate through the rigorous regulatory framework of the built environment. But rarely in life do we see many people who want to build their house from scratch to finish. If there are, then they are few and far between. Clients, we realize, don’t come in that type of samples. And the reasons are plenty, considering that a house nowadays requires a minimum of 2 to 3.5 million to construct and not many people have such disposable income at hand. At least we know the key here is disposable income.
Disposal income is that amount of fund that a person has available in cash or credit and is willing to spend on acquiring a product or a service. Say for example, people with a gross income of 50,000/= and are able to save 10% of their income, they will have a disposable income of 60,000/= after a year. This is not the amount of money that could build a house, but it can be used to accomplish certain tasks or finish sections of a building. This, typically, is the situation we have in Kenya: Where people plan and build their projects in stages as funds become available. If this money is to be used in building and construction, the major area it would fit is renovation works. Example of renovation projects that could be carried out includes: Facade Enhancement, Site Improvement, (MEP) – Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Systems, Security and Fire Protection Systems Upgrade and Tenant Improvement Projects.
For older buildings with unpleasant exterior appearance, a facade enhancement can be done to bring it into modernity. For example, in many cities and towns in Kenya, we have a strong heritage of early Indian settlement architecture, with commercial streets of two to three story buildings with retail use on the ground floor (also known as “duka” in Swahili) and office or residential use above, sometimes revealing the poor workmanship involved in their early construction from the protruding and bear structural members like beams and columns that are left exposed. These buildings, if they cannot be torn down, as cost may be an issue, they can be face-lifted and fine tuned into modernity by the process of facade enhancement.
And this may involve the use of iron, steel or aluminum framework, glass or vinyl sheets, or appropriate cladding material. A cladding material is that material on the exterior of a building used to cover it but does not necessarily support the structure. Older buildings, where tenants have “run-away” or have a difficulty attracting newer and younger professionals, who prefer taste and style, can be improved in this fashion, in addition to interior tenant renovation schemes. A facade is the selling point of a building.
For those wonderful structures left unattended for long, with very tall grass or sometimes no vegetation cover at all, or those structures on steep slopes that would provide scenic views, a site improvement project could help add value to the property. And this can include landscaping projects, retaining walls, immaculate fencing, water feature or fountains or a combination of the above to bring life into these structures.
For commercial and institutional buildings like retail shops, government buildings, hospitals, factories or industries and so on, improvements can be made to enhance performance and security and protection among other concerns. And this may include a functional fire suppression system, up to date public address system, newer and advanced mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and so on.
And for simple homes and apartments, tenant improvement projects may include new flooring, new insulation, new roofs, decorative walls and interior design, latest trends in kitchen cabinets and furniture designs, painting, caulking and lighting designs.
All these stated above are the emerging new opportunities in building and construction in Kenya. And in order to position ourselves to take on new challenges and opportunities, it is key that we get organized as the youth. If we can, get registered with Nation Construction Authority as a Class 8 Contractor, identify our strengths and specialty and hit the road running for our next meal.
That is how we get started in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) in Kenya, as a building sub-contractor or contractor. Construction jobs in Kenya will not be from new construction, but renovation.