Part 1

  1. The first step to starting a construction project is to identify consultants.

Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity surveyors (BORAQS)

(+254) 20 2728 444 / 726 243 005 / 780 496 588

[email protected]

Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK)

Located in: Fortis Suites

Phone: 020 2719974

E-Mail: [email protected]

We have made it clear before, these are the ONLY consultants who are guided and regulated by a LEGAL FRAMEWORK that protects you the developer/home builder.

Here is why. In the unlikely event you are aggrieved, you can lodge a complaint to these respective boards that regulate them. You can rest assured, any consultant who knows you are aware of this knowledge will tow the line. None would be interested in losing their practicing license. And if you make a complaint and you have full documentation, when you sue your consultant, even if they are bankrupt, your consultant’s insurance will pay you.

  1. On to how to arrive at a construction contract.

Imagine you are a lady looking to get married (to a man), then you ask for random men to tell you verbally how good they are as a husband, then you pick one to marry because they said the nicest words. This is a common habit with diaspora developers. They give their drawings to 4 contractors to ‘quote’ and they pick the lowest. You have all read how Kenyan contractors work, they quote low to get in and kula you nicely once they are inside. Then you fall out with a contractor halfway when they have already taken you to the cleaners. In comes a new contractor and every time they make a mistake they will blame the previous contractor.

Here is what you do, hire a QUANTITY SURVEYOR (not a lawyer), commonly referred to as a QS. You as a layman in most cases has no capacity to decipher a construction contract. In our practice of 14 years, we have only met a very tiny minority of clients who understand construction cost documents. He will provide for you either;

  1. A bills of quantities (BQ). This document lists building elements in quantities like square metres or cubic meters for a supply and fix (buying materials+labour) RATE. These rates are usually an average of what contractors have been achieving for the past three months in a certain region of the country. For instance, ndarugu stone would be more expensive in Kitale than Juja. This document is useful for a full contract where the contractor buys the materials
  2. A schedule of materials (SOM): This is an itemized document that gives actual/literal quantities of materials at every stage of construction. For example Foundation may need X bags of cement, X no. of tons of sand, X R10 steel bars, X rolls of BRC etc

Start from a line by line studying of the BQ/SOM with your QS, architect and interior designer. Adjust everything at planning level. Have samples of the materials you intend to use, from floor tiles, to roofing tiles to paint, to wardrobe boards. As a client, understand what you are getting into. From our observation, many disputes in ‘quality’ arise when a home builder/developer has pushed his or her QS to scale down the final cost mainly by specifying lower end elements, only to realise it is not what they had envisioned.

  1. We also usually recommend that specialized materials like specialized lighting fixtures, sockets, kitchens and bathroom fittings, swimming pools, CCTV, security systems be sourced independently by the developer or made as subcontracts in a tender in a full contract. These are the things that cause disputes in construction projects. Ask your Architect to instruct your QS to have these as client supplied materials in the BQ or have sub-contracts tafadhali.
  2. If you live in the diaspora, all the major trusted suppliers in Kenya have their updated products on their websites. Let your consultants recommend for you suppliers after which (together with your consultants) shop online, pay online and have your consultants confirm that whatever is from the shop is what has been delivered on site.
  3. Have a budget to pay your consultants to do some footwork for you and have regular site visits especially during the foundations stage, before casting slabs and during finishes. You will save by paying them. With modern technologies you can do High Definition zoom/ hangouts/ skype/ meet/ GoToMeeting/ Webex/Bluejeans/ Slack/ calls since 4G internet is available almost everywhere in Kenya.
  4. For any project, if you like saving money and you hate wasting it, bring in your interior designer AT THE BEGINNING of your project. It is not possible for a structural , electrical and plumbing engineer to do cost effective designs without an interior designer’s input. Lack of interior details will also lead to your QS making many assumptions hence not give you an accurate estimate. It is just a sad and painful truth. Let he or she with ears hear. Or your demolitions and alterations will cost 3-4times the cost of paying an interior designer with many more missed opportunities and possibilities of a better interior outlook.
  5. Being in ‘advanced’ civilisations exposes one to different construction technology. The idea of doing things ‘differently’ is usually a bug that sometimes creeps in. Whereas we embrace progress, these ‘advanced’ and ‘cheaper’ technologies have a degree of experimentation once introduced back in the 254. Use locally understandable technology to be safe and to save money. If you want to save money, go look at what materials your neighbours have used and use those materials. This may be hard to believe, but your neighbours are as cost conscious as yourself and it is unlikely that they have all fallen for a similar ‘expensive’ construction technology.
  6. Another cancer is trying to impose designs for temperate climates in an equatorial climate. Imagine an eskimo fully dressed in the Kalahari or a hotentot half naked in Alaska. Avoid internet plans like a plague.
  7. Kick out the idea of ‘Architects in Kenya are not creative’. This is an urban legend. We have globally acclaimed architects and engineers. Most Kenyan Architects have facebook pages and websites. Review their work and pick the one you like their style.

The sad truth is most ‘diasporans’ live in organized systems huko ‘majuu’ but when they want to do a construction project back home you throw away all the systems they plugged into abroad and just plunge into disfunction and disorganized informality. The construction industry in Kenya thrives in informality hence the rampant disputes in like the majority of construction projects. Diaspora remittances have exceeded the billion-dollar mark which makes it a lucrative place for con artists to masquerade as contractors and consultants.

A wise man in the Middle Wast 2000 years ago, once told about a parable of a sower of seeds. During one ‘roundi mwenda’ the sower just started throwing seeds anywhere to see how or whether they would grow. At one point as the sower sowed, some seed fell on rocky ground where there was little soil. The seed soon sprouted, but when the sun came up it burnt the young plants. The seed on the rocky ground represents people who respond with initial enthusiasm, but our advise does not sink in deep and/or is later ignored. When it comes to construction time and after sweeping our advice under the carpet, the claws of bad quality and being conned creep in and they have to suffer in silence with water leaking through sockets, being electrocuted in the shower, floor tiles that look like they were laid by a blindfolded sloth, walls that are not ‘kabiru’ and plaster has moulds mpaka your visitors mistakenly try to pinch a piece of your wall with skunjez/sukuma wiki because they thought it was ugali.

Now you have to go to fake FB groups and proclaim how you built their building at ‘32k per square metre’ but deep inside you know it is mathogothanio of the highest caliber.

For your own sake please be like the seed that fell on solid ground; the person who hears our message and executes it in their construction projects. Don’t use your ‘faith’ selectively. Put your faith into actions.