Nzangi Muimi

Construction Regulatory Bodies in Kenya

Construction regulatory bodies fall into four different categories. These categories come up as a result of the multidisciplinary and disjointed nature of the construction industry.

There are those regulating the professionals and consultants, contractors and sub-contractors, the quality of materials and workmanship, and those regulating aspects of building design, including approval of developments.

Regulation is done by the government. Since the construction industry has a huge contribution to the country’s economic growth, the government’s interest is usually in setting rules, laws and regulations to govern the conduct of the industry players. These are maintained by a government body with a specific mandate.

Further, the bodies have a legal establishment mostly by an act of the parliament. Their activities may span from registration and licensing of their members, training, capacity building, fostering professional development or prescribing rules to be followed.

Let’s see the four broad categories and the specific regulatory bodies that fall under them.

Construction Professionals’ Regulatory Bodies

Every project begins with the inception stage where various construction professionals come together to design and develop documentation that will inform the client’s decisions in taking the project to the next steps.

These professionals’ education, training and licensing are governed by provisions of various acts of parliament that form their regulatory bodies.

The construction industry is composed of the fields of architecture, engineering, planning, quantity surveying, real estate, project management, and interior design.

The fields of architecture and quantity surveying in Kenya are regulated by a government body called “The Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS), Kenya.

Further, the engineers fall under the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK), while the realtors, land surveyors and land economists are governed by the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK).

Let’s look at these bodies in more detail below:

Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS)

As the name suggests, this board registers and licenses architects and quantity surveyors.

It was established in 1934 under Cap 525 Laws of Kenya, to regulate the said professionals through training, registration and promotion of ethical practice in creating a sustainable built and natural environment. 

Further, the board conducts professional examinations, training and continuous professional development activities, and develops industry-based research policies and frameworks.

Also, the board does not work in isolation. It partners with other regulatory bodies such as the National Construction Authority (NCA) and the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) to build capacity for its members and enforce compliance with building laws in the construction industry.

For example, in the recent past, these multi-disciplinary partnerships have been witnessed in joint investigations of building collapses and the issuance of joint press statements about this matter.

Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK)

This body regulates all engineers and the engineering profession in general.

It was established by the Engineers Act 2011. This act mandated the board to do the following things:

  • Register engineers and engineering consulting firms,
  • Regulate engineering professional services,
  • Set engineering standards, and
  • Ensure the development and general practice of engineering.

Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK)

The Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) brings together professionals in valuation, estate agency, property management, land surveying, building surveying, land administration management, engineering surveying and geospatial information systems.

While writing this article, I searched through their official website and they listed the following as the roles the body performs:

  • Secure advancement and facilitate knowledge for the surveying profession,
  • Promote the general interests of members of the profession,
  • Promote ethical performance of obligations of the members of the profession for the benefit of the public,
  • Contribute to developing international and national policies and legal frameworks, strategies and plans in land management to facilitate sustainable development,
  • Represent the interests of the members of the profession in relevant local, national, regional and international forums, and
  • Work with and promote other local, national, regional and international organizations on matters of mutual interest.

Contractors’ Regulatory Bodies

Contractors are part of the construction team that undertakes the actual work of building the designed facility. They are selected through a tendering process based on the drawings, specifications and bills of quantities produced by the design team.

Further, to work as a contractor in Kenya, you are required to meet some qualifications and selection criteria which are prescribed by the National Construction Authority (NCA).

The authority was established by the National Construction Authority Act No. 41 of 2011 by the parliament of the Republic of Kenya.

Among its key roles include the following:

  • Accrediting and registering contractors and regulating their professional undertaking,
  • Coordinating training programmes for skilled construction workers and construction site supervisors,
  • Accrediting and certifying construction workers and construction site supervisors, and
  • Developing a code of conduct for the construction industry.

These are not the only roles of the NCA, but I have highlighted them because they directly relate to the authority’s work in the regulation of contractors and their activities.

You can read more about the National Construction Authority in the NCA Act No. 41 of 2011 or this detailed article: The Role of NCA in the Construction Industry.

Regulation of Quality of Construction Materials and Workmanship

Good construction projects employ the use of superior quality materials and are executed with the best of workmanship.

Consequently, to ensure safe built and natural environments, the regulation of the quality of these construction materials and workmanship is very important. This is done through the development of standards which help to codify best practices, methods and technical requirements to create a safe and sustainable environment for the community.

In Kenya, this work is done by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

This body was established through The Standards Act, Cap. 496 of the Laws of Kenya. It was established to provide standards-based solutions that promote innovation, trade and quality of life.

While it does not serve the construction industry alone, it has developed over 400 standards for construction materials that ensure safety in the construction industry.

These include steel material standards, cement material standards, aggregates material standards, timber material standards, walling, roofing, concrete admixture and flooring material standard, among others.

Examples of the specific standards include Hot rolled structural steel sections KS 572, Specification for softwood timber grades for structural use KS 771, etc.

Every five years or when a need arises due to technological changes, the bureau reviews these standards to ensure conformity with technological trends and advancements.

Therefore, it plays a very key role in ensuring the construction industry is safe and the interests of the general public are secured.

Development Controllers and Permitting Authorities

In the final stages before the construction projects get built, the developers are required to seek approvals from the relevant government bodies. I refer to these bodies as the development controllers and permitting authorities.

Development control is done by the county governments through their physical planning Offices and public health departments. Architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing drawings are submitted to these offices for review and approval.

Also, the National Environmental and Management Authority (NEMA) requires that any new development be evaluated to see the environmental, health, social and safety impacts it has on its immediate environment.

These impacts are reviewed based on the positive contributions the project will have, mitigation measured to the negative impacts developed and an implementation programme drew. If NEMA is satisfied with the contents of the environmental impact assessment reports for your project, they will issue an approval.

The environmental impact assessment process is guided by universal principles that ensure sustainable use of natural resources and minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In this way, NEMA acts as a permitting authority.

In Conclusion

Construction regulatory bodies in Kenya are used by the government to exercise some control in the industry by setting rules, laws and standards that must be met. This role is exercised to safeguard the public’s interests and ensure that the best quality services and products are offered to them.

Further, we have seen the bodies that regulate the professionals, the contractors, the quality of construction materials and their workmanship and those that issue construction permits.

It is important to understand the roles played by each body as you will interact with them in one way or another if you participate in any capacity in the construction industry.

This compilation may not be exhaustive. If you feel that I have left any of the regulatory bodies or I haven’t discussed it in more detail, feel free to add your contributions in the comments section below.

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