construction kenya faqs

Construction Kenya FAQs: Building Materials, Costs, Tech, Permits

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This article delves into the most frequently asked questions in Kenya’s construction industry. It provides brief answers to queries on building costs, plan approval processes, construction materials and technology, as well as construction professionals. 

In case you have any additional issues you’d like us to address, feel free to raise the questions through the comments section. We’ll add them to the article accordingly. 

Frequently Asked Questions In Kenya’s Construction Industry

Construction Costs In Kenya

construction costs in kenya

What is the cost of building a house in Kenya? 

Building a standard residential house in Kenya will cost you Kshs 33,450 per square metre in Nairobi and Central region, Kshs 36,300 per square metre in Western Kenya, and Kshs 35,410 in the Coast region. 

A luxurious maisonette, on the other hand, will cost you about Kshs 53,500 per square metre in Nairobi and Central region, Kshs 54,780 in the Western and Lake region, and Kshs 49,080 in the Coast region. 

For a comprehensive schedule of the current building rates for various types of projects, check out our Construction Costs in Kenya article. 

What is the cost of building a 2 bedroom house in Kenya? 

A typical 2 bedroomed house in Kenya (with 2 bathrooms) has an area of about 80 to 90 square metres. 

So, if we follow the current construction rates for a standard private house, building a 2 bedroomed house in Kenya will cost you Kshs 2.68 million – 3.01 million in Nairobi, Kshs 2.90 million – 3.27 million in Western Kenya, and Kshs 2.83 million – 3.19 million in the Coast region. 

You can get insights into the actual costs of various elements from our Construction Costs Handbook.

What is the cost of building a 3 bedroom house in Kenya?

Since a typical 3 bedroomed house has a floor area of about 100 to 140 square metres, the cost of construction ranges between Kshs 3.35 million and 4.68 million in Nairobi, Kshs 3.63 million and 5.08 million in the Western region, while building in the Coast will have you paying between Kshs 3.54 million and Kshs 4.96 million. 

Find out more from our Construction Costs in Kenya guide. 

How much does it cost to build a 4 bedroom house in Kenya? 

A standard 4 bedroomed house in Kenya (with all its amenities) has a floor area of about 150 to 210 square metres. Building that will cost you Kshs 5.08 million – Kshs 7.02 million in Nairobi and Central regions, Kshs 5.45 million – Kshs 7.62 million in the Western region, and Kshs 5.31 million – Kshs 7.44 million in the Coast region. 

Here’s a Construction Costs guide that provides more insights into that. 

What is the cost of construction labour? 

When it comes to construction labour, you can expect to pay unskilled labourers (watu wa mkono) about Kshs 400 to 800 per day, while skilled labourers (fundis) cost about Kshs 1,000 to 2,000 per day. A building foreman, on the other hand, will bill you about Kshs 2000 to 3,000 per day. 

For more details, check out our article on Construction Costs Percentage For Each Building Element. 

Are construction costs in Kenya going down or up? 

Unfortunately, it turns out building rates in Kenya are steadily increasing with time. You can blame that on market inflation, increased taxation, weakening of the Ksh against the dollar, plus the ever-growing labour rates. 

Our Construction Costs in Kenya guide compares this year’s average costs with last year’s, and then provides a breakdown of the resultant percentage growth rates. 

How can I build a cheap house in Kenya? 

If you intend to construct your house cheaply, you might want to: 

  • Proceed with a regular, simple floor plan. 
  • Use standard finishes that can be sourced locally. 
  • Have your project manager prepare a comprehensive procurement plan 
  • Maintain a simple roof. 
  • Have all the building services (plumbing, electricals, etc) grouped together and channelled through centralized ducts. 
  • Set up a cost management plan.
  • Use a regular structural grid layout. 
  • Pay labourers based on per unit production instead of per day. 
  • Build during the dry season. 
  • Consider prefab or modular building technology. 
  • Minimize the number of variations/change orders during construction. 
  • Find clever ways to reuse materials during construction.
  • Go for a load-bearing structure instead of a framed one. 
  • Consult registered construction professionals (project manager, architects, engineers, contractors, quantity surveyors, etc). 

Here’s an article revealing the common forms of construction fraud that you should look out for in the meantime. 

Which is the most expensive part of building a house?

Generally, structural framing is the costliest element during construction. It encompasses the foundation, columns, beams, slabs, and roof trusses. The foundation alone consumes about 11% to 16% of the total construction costs, while the rest of the structural framing gobbles up about 17% to 25% of the total construction costs. 

Here’s an article that provides a breakdown of the cost percentages for each part. 

Building Plan Approval In Kenya

building plan approval in kenya

How do I get a building permit in Kenya?

Here are the steps you should follow to obtain a construction permit in Kenya:

  • Perform a Folio Registry number search via the Survey of Kenya (SOK)
  • Get the latest version of the area’s survey plan. 
  • Clear the applicable land rates with the area’s county government. 
  • Have the architect submit the architectural plans. 
  • The county government will then review the plans and generate the approval fees invoice. 
  • Pay the amount indicated in the invoice to the county government’s bank account. 
  • Have the architect submit the payment invoice to the county government. 
  • Wait for the county’s technical committee/planning department to review the drawings and approve them. 
  • If you’re dealing with an e-permit system, the county government will notify the architect of approval. You can then submit the drawings in hard copy to the county government for stamping. 
  • After the architectural approval stage, your structural engineer is required to submit the structural drawings to the county government. 
  • The county government subsequently generates an invoice, which is then forwarded to the structural engineer for payment. 
  • The structural engineer remits the payment directly through the county government’s official bank account, and then the payment receipt is submitted to the county government. 
  • The county’s technical committee assesses the structural drawings and then proceeds to approve them if they meet the requirements. 
  • The structural engineer is notified of approval through a PPA 2 Form, after which you can physically visit the county government’s offices to have hard copies of the structural drawings stamped. 
  • With that, you can go ahead and submit your project’s EIA report to NEMA for approval, as well as register the project with the National Construction Authority (NCA). 

Find out more from our Building Permits in Kenya guide. 

What are the requirements for the application of building permits?

To get a building permit in Kenya, you’ll need the following documents: 

  • Architectural drawings that have been prepared and certified by a registered architect. 
  • A copy of the architect’s practising certificate.
  • Structural drawings that have been prepared and certified by a registered structural engineer. 
  • A copy of the structural engineer’s practising certificate. 
  • Proof of ownership of the plot. 
  • A survey map of the plot. 
  • Land rates clearance receipt. 
  • A duly filled indemnity form. 
  • A duly filled disclaimer form (for projects that stretch beyond the acceptable plinth area).

What are the requirements for project registration at NCA (National Construction Authority)? 

To register your building project with the National Construction Authority, you’ll be required to submit the following documents: 

  • Approved architectural plans. 
  • A copy of the architect’s practising certificate. 
  • Approved structural plans. 
  • A copy of the structural engineer’s practising certificate. 
  • A copy of the Bill of Quantities. 
  • A copy of the Quantity Surveyor’s practising certificate. 
  • A copy of the NEMA approval license.
  • A copy of the contractor’s NCA registration certificate. 
  • A copy of the contract agreement that has been duly signed by the client and the contractor. 

What is the cost of building permits in Kenya?

The fees for construction permits and building plan approval vary extensively across the counties. 

In Nairobi County, for instance, the approval fees are calculated as 0.5% of the total cost of the project (based on the construction rates per square metre provided by the Joint Building and Construction Council). 

As for Kiambu county, the rates for approval depend on the type, size, and location of the project. Projects in urban areas are charged the highest fees, followed by their peri-urban counterparts, and then rural projects attract the lowest rates. 

You can find out more from our building permit cost guides for Nairobi County and Kiambu County. 

What is the cost of NCA construction permits? 

The National Construction Authority charges construction registration fees based on the total cost of your project. Construction projects worth less than Kshs 5 million pay zero, while the fees for construction works above Kshs 5 million are worked out as 0.5% of the total contract amount. 

If your project is worth Kshs 10 million, for instance, expect to pay the NCA Kshs 50,000 for registration. 

How long does it take for building plans to be approved in Kenya? 

While county governments in Kenya will tell you that their technical committees convene almost weekly to review and approve building plans, the truth of the matter is, there’s no standard approval period. 

It could take you days, weeks, or even months to have your building plans approved and subsequently issued with a construction permit. This is a process that many developers dread because of all the politics and bureaucracy involved. 

Construction Professionals In Kenya

architects in kenya

What types of construction professionals do I need to build a house in Kenya? 

To achieve all its objectives in time and within budget, a typical construction project in Kenya needs to have a certified construction project manager, architect, quantity surveyor, service engineers (structural engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineers, etc), and a clerk of works. 

Then depending on the scope of the project, you might also require a landscape architect, interior designer, surveyor, etc. 

Here’s a breakdown of their respective scale of fees

What is the role of construction project managers? 

As the lead consultant in a building project, a construction project manager is responsible for the project’s success. They oversee pretty much all aspects of the building process – from budgeting, cost management, project planning, quality monitoring, and risk management to creating benchmarks, managing time, distributing resources, and managing relationships with all the project’s stakeholders. 

A construction project manager will basically ensure that you achieve the intended quality within the set timeframe and budget. 

For more insights, here’s a detailed schedule of our construction project management services

What is the role of architects in construction?

As the lead designer in a building project, the architect is entirely responsible for the overall visual appearance of the building. They lead other design consultants (including engineers) in design development from the concept stage to the final detailed design of the spaces, structure, elements, and materials. 

Then when construction begins, architects are expected to conduct periodic checks, as well as provide guidance on design specifications. 

You can proceed to this guide to learn more about all the design stages, plus the corresponding fees charged by architects in Kenya. 

Construction Materials And Technology

construction materials in kenya

Which is the best material to use for roofing in Kenya? 

When it comes to roofing, there’s really no material that completely outshines the rest in every aspect. The ideal roofing material to use in your project depends on a wide range of factors – such as the roof slope, climate, budget, building layout, local bylaws, location, etc. 

For a pitched roof in Nairobi and Mt. Kenya regions, for instance, some of the most durable roofing materials that you might want to consider are:

  • Asphalt shingles.
  • Concrete tiles.
  • Clay tiles. 
  • Metal shingles. 
  • Natural slate. 
  • Synthetic slate. 
  • Steel roofing.
  • Aluminium roofing.
  • Stone-coated sheets.

Flat roofed projects, on the other hand, could settle for:

  • Tar and Gravel roofing. 
  • Modified bitumen roofing. 
  • PVC thermoplastic roofing. 
  • TPO thermoplastic roofing. 
  • EPDM rubber roofing. 
  • Steel roofing
  • Aluminium roofing

And while you’re at it, you might want to avoid roofing materials that contain the following elements as they’ve been proven to be very toxic (carcinogenic) and potentially deadly: 

  • Asbestos. 
  • Silica. 
  • Lead. 
  • Cadmium. 
  • Mercury. 

For more details, here’s the Complete Guide to Roofing Materials in Kenya

Which is the cheapest type of roofing in Kenya? 

The cheapest roofing material in Kenya is metal sheet. You can buy it in a wide range of profiles and styles directly from manufacturers like Mabati Rolling Mills (MRM), Royal Mabati, Devki Steel Mills, DECRA, etc. Stone coated metal sheets, for instance, are quite popular and widely available across all the urban regions in Kenya. 

Otherwise, if you’re looking for a high-end finish, one of the most cost-effective roofing materials is asphalt shingles. They are supplied by companies such as REXE, SpaceandStyle, etc. 

Which is the best cement in Kenya? 

Going by the numerous material tests we’ve conducted on and off-site, we can confirm that there’s no specific cement brand in Kenya that towers above the rest (of the KEBS-approved brands) in terms of quality. 

While Bamburi Cement enjoys the largest market share, it’s just as good as Mombasa Cement, Savannah Cement, Rai Cement, and East Africa Portland Cement. 

The strength of your concrete mix is compromised not by the cement brand, but rather by poor selection of the cement grade and aggregates, inappropriate mixing ratio, plus environmental factors. That’s why it’s critically important to follow your structural engineer’s specifications, as well as conduct Cube Tests to confirm the strength of your concrete. 

You can learn more about the parameters affecting the structural stability of your project from this comprehensive guide. 

What is the cost of cement in Kenya

At the moment, the price of one bag of cement in Kenya ranges between Kshs 520 and Kshs 750. 

Blue Triangle’s Grade 32.5N, for instance, costs about Kshs 550-600 per 50kg bag in Nairobi, while Simba Cement goes for Kshs 500-550, and Bamburi Nguvu Cement 32.5R costs between Kshs 600 and Kshs 700. 

All in all, it depends on the supplier you’re buying from, the grade of cement, plus the volume of cement. For instance, you might want to buy in bulk instead of purchasing the bags in batches. 


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