So you have come to a point in life where you are tired of parting with a tidy sum that ends up with your landlord every month, and have decided to begin construction of your own home. Owning a house provides emotional and financial security and, in Kenya, is considered a mark of achievement. You have the money; all you need is the means. Who should you have on board? Who are contractors, architects, quantity surveyors and engineers? Do you need all these people?
There are two very common approaches to building a home in Kenya. The first is by way of Labour Contract and the second is by way of Design-and-Build.
In the Labour Contract method, the client (owner) has all the money in place, buys a house plan online or draws one up by herself, purchases all the material and takes up the service of a contractor to provide labor – fundis, plumbers, casuals and electricians – such that it is the contractor’s role to direct the construction activity to completion.
In the Design-and-Build route, the home owner approaches a developer. The developer has a team in place that will consist of professionals – contractors, sub-contractors, architects, and quantity surveyors – each with defined roles.
Owner: The owner is the client of the project. You provide the money.
Architect: The Architect is the artist behind the looks and the beauty of a house. An architect comes up with a floor plan, elevation, roof design, interior design and proposed material. The owner will work with the architect by issuing a client brief based on the owner’s taste – how many rooms, how many floors, type of roofing you desire and so on. The architect is majorly involved in the initial stages of development and his involvement decreases as the project progresses.
Quantity Surveyor: The Architect will furnish a Quantity Surveyor with the finalized plan. The quantity surveyor will come up with a Bill of Quantities (referred to as BoQ or BQ). This is a document that shows what work will be done at what stage using which materials, by which means and costing how much. The quantity surveyor will be involved in certifying payment schedules after every stage to certify that indeed the work has been carried out in the manner prescribed.
Contractor: Once the idea is conceived by the architect, the BoQ has been drafted and a plan is approved by the local authorities, the services of a contractor can be procured. A contractor is simply a business person who supplies the machines, labour and material for construction. Again here, as the owner you may choose to supply the material by yourself or you may leave it entirely to the contractor. The contractor may select sub-contractors such as electrical sub-contractors, plumbing sub-contractors and so on. The contractor may or may not have an engineering background, though most contractors double up as engineers.
Civil and Structural Engineer: In residential houses, the work of an engineer may be minimal but essential. A structural engineer will assess the house plan and advice on strength of material to use (for example, size of steel reinforcement bars, optimal size of columns and so on). The engineer will periodically supervise construction to ensure the structural soundness of the building. A civil engineer will be involved in works such as design of drainage, septic tank, swimming pools and driveways. It is worth noting that for an architect, the word ‘design’ means how it looks, whereas for an engineer ‘design’ means how it works.
These parties to a construction may be nominated by the owner. Alternatively, the developer that you approach may already have a consortium in place. If it is your first time building, the more convenient route is to use a property developer with this team of professionals in place in order to reduce losses and worries.