Floods impact vital lessons for real estate

The construction industry came out of a difficult year because of the prolonged electioneering period, and just when the prospects looked good, the rains started pouring

lobby that brings together experts in architecture has blamed current destruction of property by heavy rains to allocation of riparian areas to private developers.

These views by the president of the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), Emma Miloyo come at a time when the rains have left a trail of destruction on property, chocked the city’s drainage system and condemned buildings of unknown value.

“Our riparian reserves and natural water courses have been encroached into and others obstructed rendering them potential flood zones, case in point being the Green Park Estate in Athi River, after the River Athi burst its banks,” she said.

The heavy rains have also resulted into major floods as recently evidenced along major streets in the CBD and Industrial Area, highways including Mombasa Road, Jogoo Road, Uhuru Highway and Limuru Road. Informal settlements constructed on the riparian area of Nairobi River including Mathare, Mukuru and Sinai slums have been affected as well.

Miloyo proposed that the drainage system problem be fixed as a matter of priority by the Nairobi County government by developing and implementing a water harvesting policy. Most of the city’s natural ground cover has been replaced with concrete, which is impervious. The natural cover is meant to seep water back into the ground. As a result, surface water runoff increases whenever it rains, and this is not met with an expanded drainage system capacity. Even in cases where the drainage infrastructure has been constructed, the workmanship has been poorly executed and the storm water drains are undersized. Automatically, this results into floods, argues city archtecht, Njoroge wa Mwaura.

AAK is proposing to mitigate this. Miloyo said Nairobi county needs to plan and enforce rainwater-harvesting mechanisms. The county lacks rainwater-harvesting system and accompanying conservation points. “The city entirely depends on water from surrounding counties, it lacks its own reserves. It is a sorry fact that a few months after the floods, news headlines will read of water rationing resulting from drought,” says Miloyo, adding, “Floods have activated structurally non-compliant buildings into collapsing some of these buildings had already been marked as dangerous for occupation by the National Construction Authority(NCA); damage of property and even death,” said Miloyo.

Just before we embark on taking action and assigning responsibilities, it would be prudent to first grasp an understanding of why our city’s drainage system is non-performing.In some cases, drains are installed with grills across them, “This worsens the situation. Unfortunately, county officials do not clear these drains. They end up getting blocked, thus restricting proper functioning of the system whenever it rains,” she said.

Cytonn Real Estat project manager, Martin Gitonga has said that the heavy downpour has also slowed down construction works. “Earthworks have been affected because we can’t achieve optimum moisture content, likewise, people cannot work while it is raining,” he said.

However, he said that this is something that contractors should prepare for and thus, it should not affect contruction deadlines.

Meanwhile, real estate giants have been forced to adopt other technologies to market property to potential and existing clients to beat travel inconveniences caused by the rains. “Some customers have been postponing site visits, which has been quite a challenge for the majority of land dealers as these delays the sales process,” says Sandline Construction Limited head of commercial property, Cathrene Mwangi.

The heavy rains have also been a major deterrent to beaconing, road construction and other activities such as fencing. “This means that a lot of time is wasted as the labour force is idle waiting for rains to subside. The rains also come with a cost as they do in some cases damage existing infrastructure and items such as beacons, roads, fences and so on, especially where the land is not currently in use,” she said.

The firm has turned to utilisation of technology to enable clients to view  properties on offer remotely.

Victoria Maina, Sandline marketing manager said this is being done by using virtual reality videos, normal videos, pictures and google earth. A mobile platform, Mploti and an ecommerce website allows booking and payment to be done at the click of a button on either a phone or laptop.

“These innovations have made the sales process easier and smooth despite the adverse weather currently being experienced,” said Victoria.

Chief executive officer of Property Reality Company, Brian Gacari, regretted that we are still dealing with the same effects that are associated with floods, landslides and other natural calamities, season after season. “A strong need, therefore, exists to protect real estate asset value in the short-term and long-term and ensure business continuity of tenants by making new and existing buildings more resilient to flooding,” he said.

Some of the firm property that has been impacted badly is the PRC lakeView Heights apartments in Nakuru, Naka area unveiled recently.

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