NAIROBI, KE: Materials take up nearly three quarters of construction costs. Last week, built environment professionals held a meeting in Mombasa to discuss the same, among other things.
This was during the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) Annual Convention. The theme of the event was ‘Building Blocks and the Built Environment’. The summit was held alongside the general assembly of Commonwealth Association of Architects.
“We want to begin influencing the decisions that can be made prior to and during the processes to impact the end product in terms of design and cost,” said AAK President Mugure Njendu.
“In order to impact the construction sector holistically, we must start embracing our input in the manufacturing processes.”
“In a global environment that now has 3-D printing, the gap between manufacturing and the building site is fast narrowing…. This focus has further been necessitated by the translation of how we practice; design, procure and build,” she said.
The place of manufacturing and its growth was a critical focus as a strategy that can make a major impact in the construction industry.
“Most of the materials being used are imported yet there is an opportunity to manufacture them locally here and there are incentives offered by the Government,” said Konza Technopolis Development Authority CEO John Tanui.
A good example is a Space and Style, which initially was importing Decra tiles but now has constructed its factory in Thika and are now producing the materials local.”
Kenya, for example, largely imports clinker, an essential ingredient for cement manufacturing.
In August 2016, the port of Mombasa recorded a growth in the number of imported construction materials, according to a report by the Kenya Ports Authority.
The report indicated a strengthening construction sector in the country, with import figures increasing each week.
“The sector imported 59,866 metric tonnes of steel and 53,562 tonnes of cement clinker,’’ a part of the report read.
It further pointed out that the two main construction materials, steel and clinker, were the leading imports at the conventional cargo terminal.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialization Peter Munya said the government is creating interventions to address blocks in manufacturing and providing incentives for prioritized sectors.
He said they have prioritized building and construction, oil and gas, agro-processing sub-sectors such as dairy, tea, coffee, leather, cotton, and wood.
Munya added that in affordable housing, for example, they are giving priorities to local SMEs in tenders for housing materials with the law requiring 70 percent of materials used to come from local suppliers.
Isabella Njeri Towey, a quantity surveyor and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, proposed the need to systemize methods of design, planning, production and control, as well as merchandise and automate manufacturing.
In so doing, she said, would result in cost reduction, improved quality, mass production and high quality products.
Shelter Afrique Managing Director Andrew Chimphondah told experts to consider sustainable housing that integrate a wide range of accommodation types.
He said, “Consider green building technologies that achieve cost saving on construction costs and reduce operations costs for owners and/or tenants.”
Chimphondah stressed on the need for stability when it comes to national and local partnerships that support large-scale delivery of housing.
Ms Njendu said they are shifting attention to how, when and where construction materials are designed and how they impact on the end product.
“As built environment professionals, our role remains to design and implement projects in a collaborative and holistic way,” she said.
“It’s time we realise that our traditional role of what we put on paper, specify and design structurally is at the back end. We need to re-calibrate our focus on the front end; which is what we are doing in this convention.”