construction costs in kenya percentage

Construction Costs Percentage For Each Building Element [in Kenya]

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Previously, we published the current construction costs in Kenya (per square metre) across all the major geographical regions. Then subsequently, we went ahead and prepared a comprehensive construction costs handbook that details the building materials prices in Kenya. 

(You can compare that with the updated 2022 version of the same building rates and the more recent 2023 roundup of construction costs in Kenya. )

Now, guess what? 

Our construction cost research doesn’t stop there. To help you estimate the prices even further, we’ve gone ahead and analyzed the figures from yet another perspective. This time round, we’ve broken down the price figures to disclose the construction cost percentages that go into each building stage/element. 

To be more specific, we’ve sampled rates from an extensive array of contract bills, bills of quantities (BQs), and price lists from building material suppliers. Other resources include; elemental cost estimates from the Africa Association of Quantity Surveyors and the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya, as well as market price lists published by the Joint Building and Construction Council. 

Then using the average rates, we’ve worked out the specific percentage amounts you stand to spend on not only professional fees and construction labour, but also your building’s foundation, walling, framing, plus both the interior and exterior finishes.  

Please note, however, that these construction costs are just industry estimates. While you can use them to guide your project’s preliminary estimates, they are not reliable when it comes to the final cost analysis. Instead, you might want to consult a licensed quantity surveyor for an accurate appraisal of your project’s building costs. 

Having said that, let’s start at the top by looking into the two types of construction costs you should expect in your project. 

Soft vs Hard Construction Costs In Kenya

hard soft building costs in kenya

In every construction project, there are two fundamental classes of building costs that come into play: 

  • Soft Construction Costs.
  • Hard Construction Costs. 

Hard Construction Costs, to begin with, are the rates typically associated with a building’s tangible elements. Another term for this category is “Brick-and-Mortar Costs” as it covers your construction materials and labor expenditure. 

Generally, this is where you should expect to place your building’s foundation, substructure, finishes, and landscape costs- including fittings, utilities, cement, hardcore, concrete, construction equipment, site hoardings, bricks, reinforcement bars, roofing materials, etc. 

Soft Construction Costs, on the other hand, principally cater for invisible project elements- like legal, engineering, accounting, and architectural services, as well as taxes, construction permits, and land rates. (Find out the costs of construction permits in Nairobi here).

Now, as you’ve probably guessed already, estimating such soft construction costs can be a challenge. But, all in all, it’s always advisable to factor them in along with the corresponding hard costs so you can establish an accurate estimate range of your project’s total construction costs. 

And when it comes to that, the average percentage monies you’ll presumably fork out for the various hard and soft building components are as follows:

Average Percentage Of The Construction Costs For Each Project Component

Construction Professional Fees In Kenya

architects in kenya

A standard construction project in Kenya is expected to have the following building professionals:

  • Architect
  • Project Manager
  • Quantity Surveyor
  • Structural Engineer
  • MEP Engineers (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing)
  • Clerk of Works
  • Facilities Manager
  • Auxiliary Consultants (Lawyers, Land Surveyors, Landscape Architects, Interior Designers, EIA Experts, Facilities Manager.)

As the lead designer of the project, the fees for an architect in Kenya are usually about 6% of the total construction costs. This caters for site analysis, project conceptualization, outline design, scheme design, detailed design, and occasional supervision. 

Architects generally work closely with structural engineers, who, on the other hand, are supposed to take charge of the project’s structures. They evaluate the forces acting on the building’s elements and subsequently design, as well as supervise, the corresponding structural support systems. For the structural engineering fees, you can budget at least 3% of the total cost of the building’s structural works. 

Another engineering service you’ll need is mechanical engineering. And when it comes to that, the mechanical engineer will handle the design and inspection of your building project’s plumbing, drainage, and ventilation systems (including sanitary fittings). This will cost you at least 1% of the total mechanical costs of the construction project. 

Closely related to that are electrical engineering services, which entail the design and inspection of your building project’s electrical layouts, plus the accompanying fittings. For that, the electrical engineer will charge you a minimum of 1% of the total electrical costs of the construction project. 

Now, once the proposed architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical layouts are ready, you can go ahead and engage a licensed quantity surveyor. They’ll then draw up itemized bills of quantities and proceed to conduct cost appraisals throughout the construction period. In the end, the QS will require you to pay at least 3.5% of the total construction costs.

Then to coordinate and administrate everything before, during, and after construction, you’ll need a professional project manager.

Integrum construction project managers, for instance, offer feasibility analysis, fulltime on-site service supervision, procurement administration, schedule planning and tracking, contract administration, contract closeout appraisal, material testing and evaluation, plus change order management. Cumulatively, you can expect all these project management services to cost you about 4%-9% of the total construction costs. 

As for the auxiliary construction consultants, these are base rates for the registered professionals in Kenya: 

  • Facilities Manager (Preparation of the building’s maintenance schedule and subsequent maintenance management): 1.6% of the total cost of the building project
  • Land Surveyor (Site G.P.S, topographical and cadastral surveys, plus land division administration): 1.6% of the total cost of the development. 
  • EIA Expert (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment): 1% of the total construction costs. 
  • Interior Designer: 12% of the total cost of interior design works. 

That said, here are critical points to keep in mind as you engage these consultants in your construction project: 

  • The professionals’ fee notes will come will an additional 16% for VAT.
  • Although you can go ahead and pay in one lump sum deposit, professional fees in Kenya are usually paid in installments as the job progresses. 
  • Some of the professionals might charge reimbursement fees separately. 
  • Taking cheap shortcuts at this stage might seem feasible at first- but, in the long run, it’ll cost you much more than you’d have spent on bonafide professionals. 

Construction Labour Rates In Kenya

construction labour rates in kenya

Whether you choose to proceed with Traditional General Contracting, Design and Build, or Construction Management, you stand to spend about 25% to 50% of the total construction costs on labour alone. 

For typical residential and commercial projects, registered contractors in Kenya usually take up around 30-35% of the building costs. But, make no mistake about it, the labour rates do not apply uniformly across all the construction stages and building elements. 

(Read this for tips on choosing the best construction companies for your Kenyan project).

As soon as your project kicks off, for instance, you’ll notice that construction labour rates for foundation works are comparatively high. The reason being- excavation, erection of supportive structures, and backfilling are labour-intensive activities that could take weeks or months. 

By the time you’re done, expect the foundation labour costs to add up to about 40-50% of the corresponding material costs. 

That’s no cause for alarm though. At least the labour for the subsequent substructural works should be much cheaper- about 20-30% of the corresponding construction material costs. 

Eventually, it’s only at the roofing and interior finishing stages that you can expect the ratio between labour rates and construction materials to go up again. You’ll need highly-skilled fundis for the tasks, and they’ll charge you about 35% to 45% of the construction material costs. 

In terms of monetary figures, the overall construction labour rates in Kenya are; Kshs 400-800 per day for “mtu wa mkono” assistants, Kshs 1,000-2,000 for skilled fundis, while building foremen take home Kshs 2,000-3,000 per day. 

However, that notwithstanding, there are various cost optimization strategies you could leverage to minimize the labour expenses.  Your construction project managers can, for example, choose to pay workmen based on units of production (like cubic metres and square metres) instead of workdays. 

Building Foundation Costs In Kenya

building foundation costs in kenya

Building foundation construction in Kenya generally entails: 

  • Clearing of site bushes and trees. 
  • Removal of the topsoil. 
  • Excavation of the site. 
  • Grading of the drainage areas.
  • Installation of concrete footings. 
  • Erection of foundation walls and retaining walls. 
  • Backfilling of the foundation area. 
  • Construction of the ground floor slab. 

Cumulatively, the labour and materials here will consume about 11% to 16% of the total construction costs. Possibly more if you’re building in a wetland or the foundation happens to be integrated with a basement. 

Framing and Building Reinforcement Rates In Kenya

concrete costs in kenya

Framing and reinforcement make up your building’s skeleton. This is where you place all the substructural materials and labour for:

  • Steel reinforcement bars. 
  • Formwork (including shoring, shuttering, and sheathing)
  • Structural framing (including columns and beams)
  • Roof trusses
  • Slab

Sooner or later, you’re bound to notice that this is arguably the second-costliest part of a building project, after the accompanying interior finishes. The figures are usually in the ballpark of 17% to 25% of the total construction costs. 

Exterior Finishes Costs In Kenya 

exterior building rates in kenya

Exterior finishes generally cover the following substructural elements: 

  • Exterior walls. 
  • Exterior cladding. 
  • Windows and doors. 
  • Exterior plastering and painting.
  • Roof (check out the various roofing materials in Kenya from our comprehensive guide.) 

These resultant aggregate expenditure aggregate for most developers in Kenya is approximately 13% to 18% of the total construction costs.  

Interior Finishes Costs In Kenya 

interior finishes in kenya

Interior finishing, on the other hand, refers to the following elements: 

  • Plumbing fixtures. 
  • Electrical fixtures. 
  • Interior plastering and painting. 
  • Flooring. 
  • Countertops and cabinets.
  • Interior trims. 
  • Interior doors and windows. 
  • Interior walls and partitions. 
  • Interior insulation. 
  • Ceiling boards. 

Because of the huge amount of refined materials and skilled labour required here, interior finishes are not cheap. In fact, they are bound to be the most expensive part of your building project- around 23% to 32% of the total cost of construction

MEP System Costs In Kenya

plumbing building costs in kenya

MEP, as we’ve stated already, refers to the often ignored mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. You can think of them as your building’s veins and central nervous system. 

More specifically, the MEP system encompasses:

  • Plumbing ducts, pipes, and chambers.
  • Draining pipes, channels, ducts, and chambers. 
  • Water tanks. 
  • Septic tank. 
  • Manholes. 
  • Cesspit. 
  • Rainwater harvesting system. 
  • Soakaway. 
  • Biodigestor.
  • Refuse chute.
  • Water pumping and heating system. 
  • Electrical pipes, cables, ducts, and provisions. 
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. 
  • Solar panels. 
  • Lightning arrestor.
  • Fire hose reels and cabinets. 

Overall, you can expect these MEP system expenses to take up approximately 10% to 14% of the total construction costs. 

Over To You

Over to you now. What do you think about the building rates in Kenya? 

Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments section. 

IN THE MEANTIME THOUGH, keep in mind that these construction costs are just estimates derived from a wide range of building projects.

For an in-depth analysis of your project’s figures, you can go ahead and book a free consultation with us. Our team of architects and quantity surveyors will help you plan, manage, and control not just your construction costs, but also other variables in your building project. 

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Rogers K.
Rogers K.
3 years ago

Hello. Thank you for your informative article. What about landscaping? What are the costs?

Nicholas Wanguya
Nicholas Wanguya
2 years ago


4 months ago

Very informative read, thank you

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