CONSTRUCTION OF BUILDINGS IN UGANDA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Construction of buildings in Uganda is an aspect that is regulated by various laws. Thus for one to erect a building, be it commercial or residential, he/she has to be cautious of various requirements and conditions imposed by different laws. The laws among others include the Building Control Act, 2013, the Physical Planning Act, 2010, The National Environment Act, 2019, the Land Act and the Occupational Safety & Health Act. There are also Regulations and Codes made under the Building Control Act. These are; the Building Control Regulations, 2020, the National Building (Building Standards Code) 2019, the Building Control (Accessibility Standards for Persons with Disabilities) Code, 2019, The Building Control Regulations, 2020, The National Building (Standards for Electrical Installations in Buildings) Code, 2019

 

Environmental considerations

Article 39 of the 1995 Constitution accords to every Ugandan a right to a clean and healthy environment. The National Environmental Act under Section 3 provides that every person has a right to a clean and healthy environment in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of sustainable development. It is the duty of every person to create, maintain and enhance the environment. Where the right to a clean and descent environment is threatened by an act or omission of any person which has or is likely to cause harm to human health, the law allows any person to file a civil suit by way of Public Interest Litigation against such a person since exercising proprietary rights should not negatively affect the public. See Nyakana-v- National Environmental Authority Constitutional Appeal No. 5 of 2015.

The law requires every developer of a project or any activity that is likely to have significant adverse impacts on human health or the environment to cause to be conducted environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the purpose of evaluating environmental and social impacts, risks or other concerns of a given project or activity taking into account the environmental principles. In this article, my emphasis is on the law relating to erection of buildings and building standards.

Physical Planning Act, 2010

The Physical Planning Act, which applies to the entire country in all respects declared the entire country a planning area. The law prohibits any person from carrying out a development without obtaining development permission from the respective Physical Planning Committee.

The Building Control Act, 2013

The Building Control Act takes precedence over other Acts or instrument in existence, relating to building operations and all Acts or instruments must comply with this Act. Where a provision of any law conflicts with a provision of this Act, the Building Control Act shall prevail. The purpose of this Act is to consolidate, harmonize and amend the law relating to the erection of buildings, provide for building standards, establish a National Building Review Board, Building Committees, promote and ensure planned, decent and safe building structures that are developed in harmony with the environment and for other related matters.

Establishment and Functions of the National Building Review Board

The Building Control Act establishes a National Building Review Board. The Board consists of the representatives from the following departments;  building works, physical planning, housing, the Ministry responsible for water and environment, the Ministry responsible for persons with disabilities and a representative of each of the following professions nominated for appointment by the relevant professional body or association;  engineers, architects, physical planners, surveyors, lawyers, a public health officer from the Ministry responsible for health,  representative of persons with disabilities,  representative of workers, representative of Uganda Local Authorities Association of Uganda, a representative of Urban Authorities Association of Uganda and one person from the private sector.

The functions of the Board are;  to monitor building developments, ensure that the design and construction of buildings and utilities to which the public is to have access cater for persons with disabilities, to oversee, inspect and monitor the operations of Building Committees, to hear and determine appeals from persons dissatisfied with the decisions of the Building Committee, to determine the fees to be charged by urban and district building committees for approval of plans, issue of building permits and occupation permits.

Building Committees and Building Control Officer

The Act establishes for each District and Urban Authority, a Building Committee as a Committee of the District or the Urban Council respectively. In the case of a District Council, the Building Committee consists of the Chief Administrative Officer, Town Clerk, Chairperson of the Planning and Development Committee of the District Council, Officers responsible for physical planning, health, engineering, land management, environment management, architecture, a representative of the persons with disabilities, an officer from the police department responsible for fire prevention and a member of the district executive committee. In the case of an urban Authority, the Building Committee consists of the Chairperson of the Urban Planning and Development Committee, a category of Officers in the Urban Service similar to the category of officers in the District Council referred to above and a representative of the persons with disabilities.

According to section 29 of the Building Control Act, the functions of Building Committees are; to scrutinize and approve building plans, issue building and occupation permits, ensure that the design and construction of buildings and utilities to which the public is to have access cater for persons with disabilities, review decisions on applications for permits for minor building works submitted to a building control officer, ensure that this Act is complied with and to perform any other function assigned to it by the Board.

 

The Building Control Act under Section 32 requires the District Service Commission to appoint for each District Council and Urban Authority, a District Building Control Officer and an Urban Building Control Officer, respectively and such number of Assistant Building Control Officers necessary to enable the Building Committee effectively carry out its functions. The law prescribes qualifications for a building control officer and urban Building Control Officer.

The functions of a Building Control Officer among others include; making recommendations to a Building Committee in relation to, building plans, specifications of materials and workmanship, to forward to the Building Committee for review, copies of all applications for minor building works submitted to the Building Control Officer, and his or her decision on the application, to ensure that any instructions given by a Building Committee in accordance with the  law are complied with,  to inspect the erection of any building, the demolition of any building, any activity, in respect of which a permit has been issued, ensure that any condition upon which the permit is issued is complied with, to carry out regular inspection of completed buildings and to carry out any other duty assigned to it by the Building Committee.

Building operations without permit prohibited

The Building Control Act under section 34 the law prohibits any person from carrying out a building operation unless he or she has a valid building permit issued by a Building Committee.  It is thus offence punishable with imprisonment or fine or both to carry out a building operation without a building permit.

Application and Issuance of building permit

Any person who intends to carry out a building operation must apply for a building permit to the Building Committee of the area he or she intends to carry out the building operation. The application must indicate the name, registration number and a copy of the practicing certificate of the architect and his or her signature, and official stamp of the Uganda Society of Architects and in the case of an engineer, a certificate of good structural practice, accompanied by such number of copies of building plans and other documents as may be required by regulations. For multi-storied building, the application must include a structural design and plans, stamped by a registered structural engineer, name, registration number and his or her signature, a copy of the registration certificate and a copy of the structural design calculations, a geotechnical report made by accredited geotechnical laboratory and endorsed by a registered geotechnical engineer.

The Building Control Officer may, if he or she is of the opinion that an application made to the Building Committee does not comply with the requirements of the law, reject the application, giving reasons in writing for the rejection. The Building Committee may issue or refuse to issue a building permit to the applicant. The Committee may by giving a reason in writing, refuse to issue a permit where the building operation in respect of which the permit is applied for constitute a change in land use different from that for which the land is designated, may result in degradation of the environment in the area in which the building operation is to be carried out, may cause the depreciation in value of adjoining or neighbouring properties may result in a building which is unsightly or objectionable to the public, may result in a building which is a nuisance to occupiers of adjoining or neighbouring properties, may be dangerous to life or property,  may be located on a site which is filled up or covered with refuse or matter liable to decomposition or does not comply with the requirements of this Act.  Applications for permits for Minor building works are made to a Building Control Officer for a building permit.

Building permit for minor and temporary building works

Every person who intends to erect a minor building to apply to the Building Control Officer for a building permit. The law prescribes requirements that must accompany the application which among others include proof of ownership, development permission from the Physical Planning Committee, a sketch plan, proof of payment of application fees or any other document as may be required by the Building Control Officer. Where the Building Control Officer deems any application to be of such character or magnitude as to have a substantial impact on the community, he or she shall direct the applicant to place a notice in the Gazette or newspaper of wide circulation inviting representations from the public in writing to the Building Control Officer.

A person who wishes to erect a temporary building to apply to the Building Committee for a building permit and the application must be accompanied by a site plan, detailed architectural drawings to enable the Building Committee to determine the size, form, materials of construction and use of the proposed temporary building, where it is intended that the public shall have access to the building, structural details necessary for the Building Committee to determine the structural safety of the proposed building, proof of payment of application fee and any other document as may be required by the Building Committee.

Building permit for residential or commercial building operations

A person who intends to carry out a building operation of residential or commercial building is also required to submit an application for a building permit to the Building Committee. In addition to the requirements prescribed in sections 35(2) and (3) of the Act, the application where applicable should be accompanied by a letter of introduction from the chairperson of the village council of the area, a sketch plan of the proposed building,  proof of ownership of land, development permission from the Physical Planning Committee,  two sets of architectural drawings, a boundary opening report from a surveyor, two sets of electrical drawings, two sets of mechanical engineering drawings, two sets of structural engineering drawings and design calculations for both temporary and permanent works. The application must be signed by the applicant or his or her representative.

Building permit for complex structures or public building operations

Where a person intends to carry out a building operation of a complex structure or public building, the law requires him or her to submit in a prescribed form and signed by the applicant or his representative, an application for a building permit to the Building Committee in the area in which he or she intends to carry out the building operation in accordance.  In addition to the requirements  prescribed under section 35 of the Building Control Act and Regulation 21(2) of the Building Control Regulations, the application for a permit to erect a complex or public building where applicable, must be accompanied by a geotechnical investigation report, a hydrological investigation report, a certificate of environmental and social assessment from the National Environment Management Authority, an acknowledgement of receipt of the building plans by the Commissioner of Occupational Safety and Health, a traffic impact assessment, a certificate of energy efficiency assessment from the Ministry responsible for energy, proof of payment of application fees and any other document as may be required by the Building Committee.

 

Approval, deferral and rejection of an application for building permit

The Building Committee to which the application has been submitted may in the exercise of power conferred on it by the law, reject or grant the building permit and may attach to the permit any conditions with respect to the proposed building or work as the committee may determine. Where the Building Committee issues a permit, it endorses its approval on the building plan and other documents.

Revocation of a building permit

The Building Committee may in exercise of its powers, revoke a permit. The law outlines circumstances under which a permit may be revoked. For instance a building permit may be revoked where the owner of a building operation uses the prohibited building methods and materials, the professionals engaged are replaced without notifying the Building Committee, the building operation is not in accordance with the approved plans or where building operations have been suspended for more than twelve months.

Building operation time limit

Where a building permit is issued, the building operation must commence within twelve months from the date on which the building permit is issued and must be completed within a period of sixty months from the date on which the building operation was commenced. Where a person is unable to comply with the set time due to unforeseen circumstances, he or she must apply to the Building Committee for extension of the time within which to complete the building operation. It is an offence to carry on a building operation beyond the prescribed time.

 

Order to stop building operation

The Building Committee has power to order any person to stop building operations or to take remedial measures to the satisfaction of the Building Committee before continuing with the building operation. The Committee can order to stop building operations where the building operation; is carried out in a manner which is contrary to the provisions of the law or the Code, does not comply with health and sanitation requirements prescribed by regulations, where the building is one to which the public is to have access but does not provide access for persons with disabilities and where the site is predisposed to flooding or has a poor drainage system.

Power to order remedial action on defective building

Section 41 of the Building Control Act gives the Building Committee power to order the owner of the building to demolish or take remedial action on the building as the case may be to a standard determined by the Committee where a building is in a state of disrepair, dilapidated or is showing signs of disrepair or dilapidation.

Right of entry by Building Control Officer

At all reasonable times, the Building Control Officer has the right of entry onto any land or site where a building operation is being carried out for the purpose of determining whether the law is being complied with and may conduct tests on or carry out an inspection on any land or site on which a building operation is being carried out. It is an offence punishable by imprisonment or fine or both to hinder or obstruct a Building Control Officer in the exercise of his or her functions.

Occupation permit

The owner of the building is required to notify the Building Committee of the completion of the building in accordance with the approved plans and the regulations and apply to the Building Committee for an occupation permit. The Building Committee then examines the building, and may if satisfied that the building has been erected in conformity with the approved plans and regulations, issue an occupation permit. The Building Committee may refuse to issue an occupation permit, and give reasons in writing for its refusal.

Liability for causing accidents on building construction site

Any person whose negligence, commission or omission causes or leads to the occurrence of an accident on a building construction site resulting in the injury or death of another person or the destruction of property commits an offence and may be imprisoned or fined. The activities which may cause any person to be liable include breach of contract, failure to comply with stipulated building procedures and standards, professional negligence, failure to take out insurance for the workers and failure to comply with the Building Control Act and regulations made thereunder.

The Building Control Regulations, 2020

The Building Control Regulations are made pursuant to section 52 of the Act. They prescribe the procedure and costs to be paid in respect of appeals lodged with the Board, impose penalties in respect of any contravention of the regulations, prescribe the content of building plans and other documents required to be submitted under the Act, prescribe the fees for permits and services rendered by the Board or by a Building Committee, prescribe the forms and procedure for application for building permits, occupation permits and other permits among others.

Engagement of and non-complaint of professionals

According to Regulation 5 (1), the Building Committee shall as a condition for obtaining a building permit, require the owner of a building to employ an architect for purposes of architectural design, an engineer for purposes of an engineering design, a surveyor for purposes of surveying services and shall retain the services of the architect and the engineer for the purpose of supervising the construction of the building, retain a health and safety expert on site throughout the construction of a building and retain the services of any other professional necessary to a building operation.

The architectural and engineering drawings, documents and site reports must be signed by the architect or engineer engaged by the owner of the proposed building. On completion of the building operations, the architect or the engineer as the case may is enjoined to submit to the Building Committee a certificate confirming that the work has been carried out in accordance with the approved plans, the law and the Code. The architect and engineer must certify to the satisfaction of the Building Committee the completion of the building before an occupation permit is issued.

Where an architect, engineer or surveyor fails to perform his or her duty as required by law under the employment of the owner, the owner may report the architect, engineer or surveyor to their respective professional body for disciplinary action and notify the relevant Building Committee and the Board for appropriate action.

Classification of Building Developments

Building Control Regulations classifies building developments according to form, size, complexity, social and environmental impact under three categories; A, B and C.  Category A comprises of Complex structural forms, public buildings, multi storeyed buildings of more than 12m high, building complexes (mixture of all) such as schools, hospitals, shopping malls, buildings of high social impact or to be located in sensitive ecosystem among others. Category B comprises Residential or commercial buildings, floor area >30m2, single or multi-storeyed of up to 12m high of simple structural form, boundary wall built of bricks, concrete or other solid material of permanent nature. Category C comprises of Minor and temporary buildings; Floor area <30m2; single storey; of simple structural form.

Building Plans

The law prescribes minimum standard and requirements for civil or structural plans, electrical engineering installation plans and mechanical engineering installation plans.  For instance, Regulation 9 requires architectural plans were applicable to consist to the satisfaction of the Building Committee, location plan, context or block plan, site plan, floor plans, elevations, sections, door and window schedules drainage plans, storm, foul and waste water and boundary wall plan and details.  Civil or structural engineering plans, drawings and diagrams should contain, where applicable; excavation details, foundation details, column details, beam details, beam-column connections, slab details, staircases, lift wells roof details and retaining structure details.

 

The Electrical engineering installation plans, drawings and diagrams where applicable should contain mains and standby power supply, power reticulation, lighting layout, small power layout, fire protection, private automatic branch exchange system, local area data network and closed circuit television. Mechanical engineering installation plans, drawings and diagrams must contain water supply, water reticulation, water storage, ventilation and air conditioning, drainage and firefighting.

 

General requirements for Building plans

Architectural plans, Civil or structural plans Electrical engineering installation plans and Mechanical engineering installations plans must indicate sections, elevations, calculations and drawings, specifications of materials and such other particulars as the Building Committee may consider necessary. The Building Committee may require the applicant to submit the building plans as white bond paper, soft copy, blue print or any suitable durable material, scale or format.

Carrying out Excavations

The law prohibits any person from carrying out excavation works which exceed two meters below the original ground level without a permit issued by the Building Committee. The law requires any excavation exceeding 2 meters below the original ground level or in situations where special geotechnical considerations exist to be designed by an engineer.

Use of Unconventional Materials or Methods

A person who intends to use any building methods or materials for building for which no provision has been made under the Code is required to submit an application in writing to the Building Committee giving details of the methods and materials intended to be used. The Building Committee may, with the consent of the applicant, appoint a consultant to report on whether the standard of durability and stability of the building to be constructed from the materials or by methods not provided for in the Code are equal to the standard imposed by the Code.

The National Building Code prescribes the general requirements and standards of building materials under paragraph 118 to 137. Thus materials other than those specified in the Code may be used only when the building Committee is satisfied that they are of suitable nature and quality for the purposes for which they are used and when properly mixed or prepared. It is prohibited to use damaged, insanitary or unsightly materials such as disfigured corrugated iron or metal, reused portions of packaging cases or containers, timber which is decayed or infected.

 

Where the Building Committee is not satisfied as to the fitness of any building material for the purpose for which it is proposed as regards strength, durability fire resistance, porosity or other structural quality, it may require evidence of its soundness to be produced. A satisfactory certificate of test issued by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards or any other recognized laboratory, building or industrial research center shall be accepted as proof. It is prohibited to use second hand materials for building operations unless the Building Committee is after testing, satisfied as to fitness of building material for the purpose for which it proposed.

The National Building (Building Standards) Code under paragraph 123 prescribes the minimum requirements of Sand and fine aggregate used in building operations. For instance, the sand used for mortar or concrete shall be clean, well graded and substantially free from pebbles and large particles. The Coarse aggregate or ‘stone’ to be used must be of sound and durable quality and of a size that can pass through a ring not exceeding 50 millimeters in diameter and be retained on a mesh of 5 millimeters measured in the clear.

The Code also prescribes the minimum standard of cement, bricks, blocks and concrete used in building operations. Under paragraph 125, cement must comply with the relevant standards issued by Uganda National Bureau of Standards.  A stone, brick or block in a structural wall should be composed of hard, durable, incombustible material and shall be of such size shape and surface as to permit proper bonding and jointing. A block should be suitably matured before use. The Code also prescribes minimum standard of mortar, concrete and timber used in building operations.

Notice of commencement and completion of certain stages of work

The law does not allow any person to commence demolition or erection of a building or regular maintenance of a building including painting, redecoration or replacement of damaged roof covering before giving within a prescribed time, a notice in writing to the Building Committee. The notice must specify the date on which the building operation shall commence.

Demolition of a building subject to approval

The law prohibits any person from demolishing, causing or permitting to be demolished any building without approval of the Building Committee. The Building Committee may impose conditions as are necessary for the safety and health, convenience of the public and safety of any building or installation which may be affected by the demolition. It is unlawful for a person to leave a building or demolition site in a dangerous condition.

Compulsory maintenance

Where a building has fallen into a state of disrepair or neglect, and constitutes a safety or health hazard to the public, or for aesthetic purposes, the Building Committee may serve a notice in writing on the owner of the building, requiring him or her to carry out repairs or painting within the time specified in the notice. Where the owner of the building fails or refuses to carry out the repairs or painting within the stipulated time, the Building Committee may carry out the repairs or painting at the cost of the owner of the building.

Occupation Permit

A person who intends to occupy a building is required to first apply for an occupation permit, temporary occupation permit or partial occupation permit in accordance with section 44 of the Act and the Regulations made thereunder. The Building Committee reserves the power to revoke occupation permit where an owner of the building fails to take corrective measure required by the Building Committee or the building is used for other purposes other than that for which a permit was issued.

General offences and penalties

The National Building Control Act and the Regulations made thereunder make it an offence for any person who fails to comply with the terms of a notice or conditions issued under the Regulations, deviates in any material degree from the approved plan, drawing or diagram without approval of the Building Committee, erects a building in contravention of the Regulations, hinders or obstructs a Building Control Officer or any person authorized by the Building Committee in the performance of his or her duties, submits a certificate, which is substantially false, incorrect or fraudulent, fails to take out worker’s insurance as required by the Workers Compensation Act, being the owner of a building, occupies, uses or permits the occupation or use of a building without an occupation permit, causes any building to be altered or used for a purpose other than the purpose shown on the approved plans of the building or uses a building for a purpose, which causes a change in the class of occupancy.

The National Building (Building Standards) Code, 2019.

The National Building (Building Standards) Code sets standards for building operations in Uganda. It applies to all public and private building operation in Uganda. It includes matters relating to building standards, structural design, plumbing, electrical installations, mechanical installations, fire and safety, geotechnical report, accessibility standards and postal code numbering.

Under paragraph 4, the National Building (Building Standards) Code provides for siting of buildings. Buildings must be sited as provided by the Building Committee. All new buildings and all additions to existing buildings and particularly all outstanding, latrines and all drains and sanitary apparatus of any kind pertaining to the buildings should be situated on plots or any other piece of land on which they may be built, to ensure the best practicable sanitary conditions and to avoid as much as possible, any nuisance from the position and appearance of the latrines or outbuildings or from any other cause.

It is prohibited for the foundation of any building to be constructed on any site which has been filled up by or has been used as a place for deposit of excremental matter or the carcasses of dead animals or other filthy or offensive matter until that matter has been properly removed or otherwise dealt with to the satisfaction of Building Committee.

Plot frontage and Building lines

The law prohibits erecting a building on any plot which has no proper and sufficient access to the road or road reserves of not less than 10meters. Under Paragraph 8 of the National Building (Building Standards) Code, the Building Committee has power to prescribe building line for any street or part of the street and it is prohibited for any person to create a building near to the road than the prescribed building line.

 

Space around residential building and access to utilities

Every residential building is required to have within the site an open space at the rear, or partly at the rear and partly at the side, at a level of not less than 150mm below the floor of the lowermost storey. A residential building should be sited as to leave an open space immediately in front of the building which extends along the whole width of the front of the building of not less than 6 meters wide measured at the right angles from the building. The law requires a car parking area to be provided on all residential plots. The surfaces of the parking must be adequately drained to the nearby channel or soak-away pit or as advised by the relevant Building Committee.

All buildings should be served by piped water supply or any other suitable water approved by National Water and Sewerage Corporation. The surface water-run-off from the building and other surfaces should drain into the approved nearby channel and the owner of the building should make sure that a building does not block the natural flow of surface water-run-off.

 

Boundary fencing and height of boundary walls

Paragraph 19 of the National Building Code is to the effect that unless the building Committee otherwise directs, the development of any plot must include the provision of boundary walls, screen walls, fences or other means of enclosure of approved materials, construction and design. While Paragraph 20 thereof prescribes the minimum height of boundary walls, screen walls, fences or other means of enclosure.

Construction of Lift ways and Stairs

The Construction of all lift ways should comply in every respect with the National Building Standards Code and the requirements of section 69 of the Occupational Safety and Healthy Act. In addition, the code sets more minimum requirements as to space between the bottom of the lift shaft and the lowest point of the cage floor or fittings when the cage is at the lowest landing and between the top of the lift shaft and the crosshead of the cage when the cage is at the top landing. Every lift has to be inspected in accordance with Section 69 of the Occupational and Healthy Safety Act, 2006 and a report of inspection issued which must be submitted to the Building Committee or Building Control Officer by the owner of the building upon request.

The National Building Standards Code requires that every building which exceeds 1 storey in height shall be provided with a stair case to give access to the upper floors except where there is a separate access to the upper floors. The minimum and maximum dimensions of the stairs is also prescribed.

Precautionary against fire and Means of escape

The National Building Standards Code require every building to be provided with such means of escape in case of emergency as may be required by the intended use of the building. Any building in which more than ten persons reside or are employed at any one time, shall be constructed of fire-resisting materials, be provided with a sufficient number of fire escapes, secondary means of access and shall have fire-resisting floors, stairs, staircases and passages.

Temporary buildings

For any person to erect a temporary building, he or she must submit to the building committee a site plan together with the application to erect a temporary building. The Building Committee may grant authorization to a person to proceed with the erection of the building subject to compliance with any conditions or directions specified in the authorization.

Design of schools and residential buildings

Every classroom in a place of instruction must be of such dimensions as to ensure suitable accommodation for the number of learners intended to use the room. The National Building Standards Code under paragraph 93 and Table 4 of the 1st Schedule prescribe the minimum measurements of a classroom and the hall for occasional assembly of the learners.  The Code under paragraph 102 prescribes the size of habitable rooms. For instance, every habitable room shall have a superficial area of 9 sqm at the least with an allowance of 3.7sqm per person for each person sleeping or intending to sleep in it.

Lighting and ventilation of buildings

Paragraphs 111 to 117 of the Code sets the minimum standards for lighting and ventilation of habitable rooms, bathrooms, lavatory, pantry, larder, scullery and staircase. Regarding lighting and ventilation of warehouse, every building of the warehouse class must be provided with proper and efficient lighting, with proper, adequate and efficient means of ventilation to the satisfaction of the Building Committee.

Provision of Kitchen, water supply, stores, bathrooms and Latrine accommodation

There should be provided in every boarding establishment to the satisfaction of the Building Committee, a kitchen accommodation of suitable size, type and construction, a water supply sufficient for all purposes and proper washing and bathing accommodation for the users. Every school must be provided at all times with a sufficient supply of wholesome drinking water and where there is no piped supply, the water should be provided in a clean receptacle and the arrangements should be made to ensure that the water is accessible without danger of contaminating the supply. For a dwelling house, the Code under Paragraph 103 prescribes minimum requirements for kitchen, stores and bathrooms.  A dwelling house should be provided with sufficient and suitable accommodation for cooking, storing food and washing to the satisfaction of the Building Committee.  Every school whether a boarding establishment or not, should be provided with proper and sufficient latrine accommodation conforming to the National Building (Standards for Mechanical Installations in Buildings) Code, 2019

The National Building Electrical Installations in Buildings) Code, 2019.

The National Building (Standards for Electrical Installations in Buildings) Code, 2019 applies to

electrical installations that operate at a voltage not exceeding 11,000 V a.c supplied from the public supply or from a private generation plant. It also applies to residential, commercial and public premises and electrical installations supplied from an external source or from a private generation plant.

Technical designs

The law requires the Uganda Electricity Regulatory Authority to issue or authorize issuance of

graphical symbols to be used in all drawings, wiring plans and other technical designs for electrical

installation of buildings. The engineer has to specify, at a planning provision for accommodation

of substation, transformer, switch room, lift wells and other equipment rooms, service cable ducts,

rising mains, sub-distribution boards, openings and chases in the floor and walls for all required

electrical installations. The law also sets standards and requirements for installation of substation

for a group of buildings and substation in a multi–storeyed building.

Planning and designing of electrical installation

Paragraph 5 of the National Building (Standards for Electrical Installations in Buildings) Code requires the design and plan of an electrical installation to take into account all the prevailing conditions which among others include the type of supply, the envisaged load having regard to the requirements of the owner or occupant, the probable modifications and future extensions, the degree of electrical and mechanical protection necessary, the probable operation and maintenance cost, the relative cost of various alternative methods or  the need for radio and telecommunication interference abatement.

The electrical layout should be considered after proper locations of all outlets for lamps, fans, and appliances both fixed and transportable have been selected and best methods of wiring determined.  Runs of wiring and exact positions of points of switch-boxes and other outlets must be marked on the plans of the building and approved by the engineer in charge before commencement of works. The design of an electrical installation should ensure the protection of persons, livestock and property and proper functioning of the electrical installation for the intended use.  The information required as a basis for design is also prescribed by the law.

Requirements for approval of buildings

The National Building (Standards for Electrical Installations in Buildings) Code prescribes the requirements for approval of building plans which include drawings for electrical installations and equipment. The Code requires inspection and testing of all completed installations and its components before they commence service to the public.  All buildings must conform to the Electricity (Safety Code) Regulations, 2003 and provisions governing over-head cable lines.

Requirements for Safety

It is a requirement that the electrical equipment be constructed or installed in a way that they are capable of being maintained, inspected and tested. All electrical equipment must be suitable for the maximum power necessary for current-using equipment when it is functioning in its intended manner.  Electrical conductors must be effectively insulated and of sufficient current carrying capacity for the intended purpose. All electrical conductors and electrical equipment likely to be exposed to weather, corrosive and explosive atmospheres, inflammable surroundings, or other adverse conditions must be constructed or protected to prevent danger likely to arise from such exposure. All buildings including schools, churches, mosques, halls, hospitals, theatres should be provided with a lightning protection system of prescribed standard.

Inspection and testing

Upon completion of the installation, the contractor is required to carry out the following tests in the presence of the authorized person; tests as prescribed in the Electricity (Installations Permits) Regulations 2003, tests in accordance with US IEC 60245-1, insulation resistance tests, circuit and earth continuity tests, loop impedance and polarity tests, continuity resistance of conductors and sheathing sections, phase sequence, full load when specifically ordered and earth resistance. Tests should be carried out on each circuit in addition to the complete installation.

The Building Control Officer is also required upon completion of installation, to inspect the system to ensure compliance with the Code. In addition to checking that all parts are correctly installed and operating satisfactorily, the Building Control Officer has to certify in writing that voltage drop (loss) in cables does not exceed specifications, output from PV modules is within 5% of manufacturer’s specified value, all wiring has been installed in an appropriate manner, safety hazards do not exist and all signs and labels have been appropriately placed.

The Building Control (Accessibility Standards for Persons with Disabilities) Code, 2019

Any person erecting a public building must also comply with the Building Control (Accessibility Standards for persons with Disabilities) Code, 2019. The Code defines public building to mean a building that is accessible to the public while access means approach, entry or exit. The building is accessible building if it complies with the requirements of this Code.

Signage

The Code requires marking with international symbol for access prescribed by the law a facility in a building used specifically by a person with disability. There should be a sign at the main entrance of the facility or any other accessible position in the building or in an accessible position indicating to a person with disability the route to the exit of the facility, direction and name of the facility.

The Code requires that there be parking space reserved for a person with disability at a work place. A parking space provided for a vehicle used by a person with disability should be clearly demarcated as being intended for the use of a person with disability only. A parking space designated for a vehicle used by a person with disability must be identified by a vertical sign incorporating the international symbol and should be clearly painted on the road surface.

Accessible Route, Turning Space and Obstruction in Path of Travel

The law prescribes and requires there to be an accessible route as part of an external and internal circulation route. There must be a means of access suitable for use by a person with disability from outside of a building and within the building. There shall be at least one accessible route, which shall be provided within the boundary of the site from a public transportation stop, accessible parking space, passenger loading zone, public street and pavement to the accessible building entrance which it serves and the facility inside the building.

The Code sets standards for the turning space, allowance for a wheelchair, guide dog or a person on crutches. A protruding object should not reduce the clear width required for an accessible route and a path of travel should be as prescribed by law. A doorway should allow free access for a wheelchair user.

Where a person in a wheelchair is required to open a door toward the wheelchair, a nib of at least. Door-to-door frame should be painted in a contrasting colour from the surrounding wall for easy identification by persons with visual impairment.  A door should be labelled in contrasting colours, large print format and preferably engraved or brailed. A frequently used door should open automatically and be equipped with a failsafe system that enables the door to open under emergency conditions.

Ramps and lifts

The Code sets minimum standards for ramps and lifts in a building. A ramp or series of ramps should provide a safe, comfortable and convenient route for a wheelchair user. A ramp must be provided where level access cannot be achieved and shall be accompanied by stepped access.

Sanitary Facilities

The Code sets minimum standards for sanitary facilities in the building. For instance, it requires every building to have one or more toilets or unisex toilet suitable for use by a person with disability, provided that the first toilet shall be a unisex toilet facility, for use by a person with disability. In buildings of occupancy where a bedroom is provided with a private toilet facility, at least one bedroom with provision for a private toilet facility out of every twenty-five bedrooms, should be fitted with a toilet, washbasin, bath or shower accessible to a person with disability. A public building other than a building of occupancy should have at least one toilet accessible to a person with disability within every group of toilets provided a person with disability shall not be required to travel further than a person without disability to a toilet accessible to a person with disability.

The Code also sets minimums standards and measurements of wheelchair-accessible toilets in buildings and pit latrine rooms. The space must be provided in a pit latrine room for a wheelchair user to place himself or herself outside the swing area of the door. A change in level to the landing area must be connected by means of a ramp.

Auditorium, grandstand and halls

Where a building contains one or more auditoriums or halls fitted with fixed seating, the Code prescribes floor space accessible to a person in a wheelchair to be set aside for the accommodation of a wheelchair in an auditorium or hall. The space must be situated adjacent or in close proximity to an exit door and should be arranged that a wheelchair will not obstruct an aisle or exit door.

Non-compliance

Where a person fails to comply with the provisions of this Code, he or she shall not be issued with an occupation permit.

The National Building (Standards for Mechanical Installations in Buildings) Code, 2019

This Code prescribes standards for stairways, ramps, guards and lifts, lighting, ventilation and heating, fire safety and plumbing, sanitary fitments and drainage works. For instance, the Code requires, all pipes and fittings for the water supply system to conform to the requirements of this code. All pipe or other water-fittings or storage cistern made from lead or internally lined with lead should not be used in new installation, not having lead services.

Conclusion and Way forward

Ownership and development of land is a matter that is regulated by various laws. It is advisable that before erecting a building, the person should seek legal advice from a Land lawyer. Otherwise the Building Committee or National Environment Authority may direct the intended developer to demolish the building in case of breach of applicable laws.