New code clears way for use of local materials to cut cost of construction

Kenyans will in the next five years be allowed to build homes and office blocks using affordable local raw materials, bringing down the cost of construction.

This follows a policy shift, which will see the country drop stringent guidelines that have long restricted developers to expensive brick and mortar.

The country is moving always from the British Standards and Codes of Practice used for structural engineering practice in Kenya since 1960s. In its place it will domesticate the European construction guidelines (Eurocode) by 2021. The­ guidelines are now used globally.

On Wednesday, Public Works Principal Secretary (PS) Paul Maringa said the new construction guidelines allow for innovation, hence use of locally available materials as long as they pass safety tests. He said new technology will also cut the cost of building.

Developers and other stakeholders pushing to end Kenya’s housing shortage have repeatedly termed Kenyan laws governing the building and construction sector as their brick wall.

For instance, for any permanent structures in urban areas to be granted regulatory approvals, they are required to be built using specific materials like bricks and mortar.

“What we are saying is that the new code bears a lot of diversity and therefore a Kenyan at the Coast seeking approval to build permanent structures using, say mangrove timber or coral stones, which are abundant in the region, will be able to do so under the law as long as standardisation is done and the materials pass the safety test…we need to develop standard for local materials and methodologies that have proved to work,” said Prof Maringa.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Charles Ongwae, speaking during the unveiling of the road map for employing the new standards, said the Eurocode forms a common basis for research and development, thus reducing related costs in individual countries.

He, however, said there was need to move with haste to ensure that the country does not lag in adopting the new guidelines.

“It is expected that by January 2021 implementation of the Structural Eurocode will have been completed for use in the construction industry. It is a long journey that we must all take together as stakeholders in this sector,” said Mr Ongwae.

The standards agency boss said the new guidelines will eliminate the disparities that hinder transfer of engineering technology and services within Kenya and global markets besides leading to more uniform levels of safety in the construction sector. Business Daily Africa

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