Building standards in Kenya set to improve - CNBC Africa

Building standards in Kenya set to improve


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A Crane on construction site.

“The standards have increased dramatically in the last few years. If I look at just the last four years, the quality the developers are having to put in now to sell, has increased dramatically, a much more competitive market,” Nathan Luesby, managing director at Jenga Web Limited, told ABN Digital.

“If you look at a phase one, some of these super developments in Nairobi, and compare them to the fixtures and finishing people are putting into phase four, the attention to detail that people are going to now try and sell these homes, it’s all because of competition.”

In 2012, Nairobi was named the top city in Africa, recording a 21.8 per cent growth in its high end property market. Experts at the time also predicted that the property sector would have continued growth in future as interest rates ease.

Increased literacy levels and advancement in technology have also contributed to an informed consumer, with more Kenyans looking to buy in areas with recent and modern housing developments.

Housing developers in Kenya therefore have to keep pace with international quality standards, which are expected by both its local and expatriate community. Kenya has one of the largest expatriate populations in the continent.

It is reported that the country loses roughly 1.4 billion shillings a year due to collapsed buildings. Buildings are sometimes put up too quickly to meet the urgent demand, and begin to fall apart soon after.

Superior Homes developer Ian Henderson said after arriving in the country between 2006 and 2007 his company noticed that building standards in Mombasa road called Green Park, were a bit low. 

“There were some poor finishes and question marks over the quality at that time, and I reckoned that with bringing international standards to the Kenyan market, we could really do very well,” said Henderson.

There are however challenges in bringing international building standards through international companies to Kenya. This is as the time it takes for certain developments in European and American markets will not be the same for the country due to its less developed market.

However, growing interest in the local market and Kenya’s large expatriate population has managed to draw international companies into Kenya’s property development space.

Mega projects such as the Garden City project, for example, has a number of international architects behind it that will introduce more current building standards and methods into the country’s property development space.

Importation of construction material is also at its peak in Kenya, as part of the process to improve on local housing standards.

 “There was a time where people would just go and buy everything from China, but just because something is imported doesn’t mean that it’s tasteful,” said Eugene Ngugi, managing director of Planning Interiors.

“People are looking for a mix: some local content, imported content to produce something that’s real quality.”

Companies such as Eco-Houses Limited, a construction organisation that builds low-cost housing, have begun to find alternative solutions to building housing using renewable materials, but adhering to the general standards of good quality housing.

As Kenya's property market continues to grow, more local developers will be able to build Grade-A properties in the retail, office space and residential space.

“First it's the level of comfort, the level of architectural workmanship and detailing the level of finishes. A proper Grade-A building, you're talking about more on green technology, very good quality finishes,” said Raphael Mwito, development manager at Mentor Management Limited in Nairobi.

“It's a building that if you pluck out of Nairobi, it can comfortably sit in Johannesburg, London and you still get top of the range space.”