The Ministry of Infrastructure has asked Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) and Rwanda Housing Authority (RHS) to fast-track steps for establishing a national laboratory to test fire resistance in construction materials as well as develop standards the testing will be based on.
The Minister for Infrastructure James Musoni announced this after a consultative meeting on fire safety and preventive measures with stakeholders in Kigali on Thursday.
Participants included firefighting institutions, contractors, architects, district One-Stop Centres, engineers, inspectors and others.
An assessment in the construction sector revealed “lack of fire-retardant construction materials and laboratory to test fire resistance rate in the country.”
It showed a gap could reduce the chance of attempting to contain or slow spread of fire when it breaks out in buildings.
The ministry found that fire prevention efforts still face several challenges.
These include inadequate fire fighters, substandard construction materials, negligence in the building management, and improper handling of electrical installations.
The evaluation also indicates that there is inadequate inspection, lack of skills and professionalism, as well as gaps in legislation, all of which affect safety and health in the construction sector.
“Rwanda Housing Authority and Rwanda Standards Board will have to move quickly to collaborate to fill in the gaps existing in testing standards of construction materials so that they increase capacity to test what we have not been able to do,” Musoni said.
“They have to move to certify and label construction materials and follow up after they are bought. I urge strong inspection to make sure recommended standard materials are used at the construction site.”
Fire brigade talks urgency
Jean-Baptiste Seminega, the commanding officer of the Police Fire and Rescue Brigade, emphasised the need to buy equipment to test fire resistance on construction materials, adding that all buildings must set up an evacuation plan to help in case of a fire.
Samuel Mporanzi, the director of engineering and urban planning standards at RSB, said works to establish the planned laboratory were progressing well.
“We used to test standards of construction materials but we do not yet have the capacity to test fire resistance rating. We have received a request to set up the laboratory. We are urgently looking for testing equipment, standards that will be used to know fire resistant materials, workers and we are dealing with procurement,” he said.
Mporanzi urged one-stop centres that provide construction permits to always check materials and their safety and health standards in general before issuing the permits.
“All concerned institutions must play their role in reporting any case of substandard materials in the construction sector so that interventions are quickly made,” he said.
Scaling up cracking down to district levels.
Minister Musoni said that the assessment of standards for construction materials that is being carried out in Kigali should be extended to all districts.
“Where mistakes are found, they must be corrected. Where there is need of a fine, it must be imposed. And, where there is noncompliance or high risk to safety and health, suspensions must issued,” he said.
The minister added that owners of buildings must work with maintenance companies to make sure installation of various materials does not compromise the safety and health of people.
Augustin Kampayana, the acting director-general of RHA, said there is need to review the Rwanda building code to fill gaps any in the standards required of construction materials.
“We should start with the architects who recommend the construction materials to use during the design phase. And, in the course of construction, inspection must be reinforced to make sure the recommended materials are the ones being used,” he said.
Papias Kazawadi, the president of Rwanda Engineers Council recommended that Rwandan made construction materials should be used.
“It is better to used Made-in Rwanda materials because we can easily control the standards,” Kazawadi said.
He added that every Engineer must sign and commit to their professional code of ethics before being licenced.
This, Kazawadi said, will help to holding accountable engineers who fail to comply.