Step By Step Guide to Building a House in Kenya
Building a home is everybody’s dream. Unfortunately, many people have had their dream shattered by players in the construction industry. Do you remember the Syokimau, Kiamaiko, and Eastleigh demolitions.
The mental anguish, financial loss, and emotional distress occasioned on home owners in the recent past can be attributed to unscrupulous characters in the construction industry. It is obvious that nowadays one needs to exercise extreme caution, and be keen on the procedure followed in the acquisition and development of land.
It is important that you gather as much information as possible in order to avoid huge losses during land acquisition or construction.
In this post, we will take you through a few steps you can take to safeguard your money from unscrupulous characters in the real estate sector. From the time you identify a suitable property, up to the time of purchase and development, you need to be on high alert to avoid high losses to unscrupulous dealers.
1. Feasibility Study.
What is a feasibility study? It’s the controlled process of identifying a problem and strength in a business venture (read land). In building and construction, a feasibility study is crucial for a number of reasons as follows;
It gives you brief historical background information on the land in question. In the case of Syiokimau, a historical background check would have indicated that it was airport land. More information could have been obtained from the commissioner of lands as well as the Kenya airports authority.
Emergence of conflicting information means that the land should not be bought. It must be understood that it has become increasingly challenging for investors to identify genuine land as a result of the never ending corruption at the ministry of lands and local authorities.
Viability of the project is also verified at this stage.
Any land indicated on a colonial map, as public or set aside for the purpose of the road construction, or expansion of public utilities, should not be sold or bought.
A feasibility study will also enable you to know the type of soil on the plot in question. Some soil types are expensive to build on. For instance, black Cotton soil is expensive and challenging to build on, and as such, it is advisable to seek help from a qualified and experienced person preferably a structural engineer to help you determine how best to tackle the foundation of the house .
It must be noted that it is possible to build on any type of soil. If the proposed location is rocky and you are planning to have basement or any underground structure, like a water tank, septic tank, or a pit latrine then you must factor in breaking of the rock, which is very costly.
A feasibility study will also enable you know the requirements or building by-laws governing the area. Local authorities have zones, where land is allocated for specific types of buildings, for instance industrial, and residential zones. Some areas have controlled developments, where you are restricted by being expected to adhere to a specific layout plan according to the type of building you are putting up.
A feasibility study will give you an overview of the amenities around, the location, availability and cost of materials and charges of labor.
It enables you to know the size of the plot, as well as the level of the ground (is the ground flat or steep?).
It also enables you to assess the availability of a local authority sewer line. You are able to know the distance of the plot from the nearest manhole to which you can have your sewer line connected. You also need to understand the invert level of the local authority manhole in relation to the invert level of the connecting inspection chamber.
An accurate feasibility study will address all issues and concerns regarding the property in question.
2. Preliminary Design.
Following purchase of the land, the next thing to do is to sketch a rough design of your ideal or dream home. You can check on the internet for samples of design that suite your lifestyle and budget. The sketch should present a rough idea of the house, as well as the number and function of rooms. This is important as it helps you articulate the dream on paper.
3. Architectural Design Stage.
At this stage, you take the preliminary design to a skilled qualified architect who has the necessary skills and training in planning, design and supervision of construction projects. The architect will help you put the rough sketches or idea into an organized format, and in manner that is beautiful and functional.
Care should be taken to ensure that the architect does not completely change the preliminary design. At the end of the day, the final design should fit your lifestyle and budget. The design of the house should ensure that the house is stable and safe to the occupants. You should take charge of the design process of your house, because it has a direct bearing on the cost, aesthetics and function.
How to avoid mistakes in architectural design.
Get a skilled and experienced architect.
First and foremost, the most important thing you need to do is identify a skilled and trained architect or draftsman. Ask your friends, or relatives who have experience in building recommend a good architect. Request the architect to present a portfolio of previous projects in order to get an overview of his architectural skills.
The architect should;
- Have good communication skills, and must also be a good listener.
- Have an excellent sense of design, and good technical abilities.
- He must be a team player.
- Can visualize the end product, and is passionate about his work.
Know your Budget.
How much are you willing to spend on the proposed project? Money is one of the most important factors to consider prior to and as the design is being developed.
What’s the function of the house?
Make sure you know the size and number of rooms you want. Let the architect advice, but be the one who makes the final decision. To know the right dimensions of the rooms, buy a measuring tape and take measurements of an existing house. Benchmark the measurements of your house to those of the existing house.
Most people don’t understand measurement units, so you need to make an effort to understand the units. When the architect tells you a room measures 10feet by 10feet, you should be able to know what it means on the ground. The architect can make things easier by explaining and illustrating physically on the ground by use of a measuring tape.
Know the details of design
Ask questions about each and every detail on the drawing plans. You should also be keen and have an interest in interpretation of the design plan. Check the size of the windows, the height of the house, the size of rooms, and the appearance of the roof. Remember that it is cheaper and easier to change the design on paper than on the ground.
This is a very important point. You could request for a pictorial view of the house, to get a glance of how the external finish, especially the roof will look like.
The final design should have the following.
- Layout plan: This is the actual plan showing the arrangement and relationship of rooms. It shows the size of the rooms, doors, windows, and type of material to be used. The layout plan is what is used for setting out a building.
- Elevations: This is basically the view of the four sides of the building. They give you the idea of how the house will look at the end.
- Cross-sections: These are drawings bearing details of the house, from the foundation, headroom, up to the roof.
- Site plan: It is a reduced plan of the entire plot, with all the proposed structures .The site plan essentially explains the arrangement of the structures on the plot, and includes the main house, drainage system, driveway, landscape, the external underground tank, as well as the distance between the structures.
- Block plan: This is basically a selected section of the main survey plan. It shows the proposed plot and its neighboring plot, together with the adjacent ro road. It also shows their plot number and dimensions.
- Foundation plan: This is a drawing showing the foundation areas to be excavated, such as the trench, and column bases. Not all walls originate from the foundation base. Some like washroom walls, which are not load bearing, can originate from the ground slab. A foundation plan is not a must, especially for small projects like a bungalow.
- Title block: Here, details of the project, developer, and architect are written and displayed.
A bungalow or one storey building does not require much engineering, although it is still necessary to consult an engineer whenever you are faced with a challenge. For any building with more than one storey, it is important to consult an engineer. The structural engineer should be qualified and experienced in analyzing, designing and planning of structural details.
The design should consider safety, function and comfort of the occupants. The design should not interfere with or affect the aesthetic appeal of the building. The engineering drawings should include;
- Foundation plan-Drawing showing the dimensions of size of trench, and column bases.
- Ground slab plan-Shows the thickness of ground slab, size of reinforcement eg Brc
- Columns and wall details-Drawing specifications, size of steel, walling
- Upper floor details-Has slab thicknesses, steel specifications, beam details.
- Ring beam details-Show details of beam on the last floor.
Generally the engineer specifies the class of concrete to be used in each area. At this point if the above drawings are in order, then they can be taken to the local authority for approval. All the print outs must have the stamp and registration number of a registered architect for architectural drawings, and of a registered engineer for structural designs.
Service engineers are the electrical engineer and the water engineer. They are responsible for design, installation, and operation and monitoring of electrical, drainage and plumbing systems in a building. Service engineers are ideal for big and complex buildings. For small buildings, a trained, experienced and licensed electrician, and a plumber can handle the design and installation of these service facilities.
The design can also be printed, and used as reference guide on the ground.
On the ground the piping is done on the ground slab, and the rest of the piping is done as construction progresses.
4. Costs and Estimates of the Proposed Project.
This is also a very important stage in construction. After the architect and structural engineer have done their design, according to the specification shown on the print out, the costing and estimates of the complete project can be done. This is done by a quantity Surveyor.
The quantity surveyor is the most qualified to do the costing of the entire project. A quantity Surveyor is a construction professional educated, trained and skilled in managing costs associated with building.
Other duties of a quantity surveyor are;
- Preparing Bills of quantities (BQ). This is a tender document which contains measured quantities from the architectural, structural drawings. The contractor does the pricing against these measurements. This document is used as a reference point until the construction project is completed. It serves as a guide on the type of material, the size of work done and the cost of doing the unit job. BQ is important for valuation and cost control of projects.
- He prepares, and negotiates costs for tenders and contracts.
He calculates the costs of variations; additional work, omissions, and subtractions of work.
He is also responsible for valuing of the work done and prepares interim certificates for payments.
He manages the project costs and makes sure that the project does not exceed the budget. He also makes sure that work is done according to schedule.
For small or medium sized projects, the developer can request the competing contractors to present their quotation for the proposed job. The quotation can be inform of a list showing the materials and labor, used in the various stages of construction. These are summed up at end to get the total cost of completing the project.
NOTE. It is important for the developer to have a rough idea of how much the project will cost. He can obtain an estimate by researching the average cost of constructing a house of the same size in that area. This can be done through wide consultations with relatives who have building experience.