In communications, they teach that if you want to tell whether someone is passionate, listen to how they speak. It is also said that you can fake a smile and laughter but you can’t fake passion. Upon a brief interaction with Architect Gad Opiyo, these words come to life. You can quickly pick that his passion for a more streamlined system in the building and construction industry comes from a deep authentic place, something you don’t find in many architects. Most of his peers are purely focused on their private practice and growing their businesses.
Gad Opiyo is a registered architect with 19 years of experience in professional consultancy work in the field of construction, architecture and civil works. Today, Gad practices as an Architect, a contractor and a developer.
An ardent promoter of cross border trade in construction services across EAC, Gad is the current president of the East Africa Institute of Architects. He is also the former
chairman of the Architect’s Chapter in the Architectural Association of Kenya and currently the vice president in the Association. Looking back at his term as the Architect’s
Chapter Chair, Gad and the team have transformed the management of the Association and improved the secretariat. “We held a very successful Awards of Excellence 2016 – an event held bi-annually to celebrate performance and excellence in the industry. The annual convention in Diani was also remarkable. We also hosted the East African
Institute of Architects council and AGM in Diani. In terms of the systems, we hired new managers and things are moving way faster.” Gad recaps.
As the new vice president of Architectural Association of Kenya, Opiyo intends to promote professionalism, reform governance and structure and automate the system and staffing in AAK. Through his new office, Gad also plans to establish fee collection agency and online design contracts, standardize fair remuneration to young professionals, eliminate undercutting and unethical competition, nominate non-AAK officials to represent the Association on government boards and international travel, improve media relations in the Association to reclaim its voice as an authority in the Kenyan built environment. Gad would also like to reinvigorate and grow the Architectural Association of Kenya in membership and revenue “I believe that in order to sharpen and elucidate their social skills,architects need to be members of a professional association,” he explains.
Opiyo was born and raised in Awendo in Migori County where he also attended his primary and secondary education. In 1992, he moved to Nairobi to study architecture at the University of Nairobi, a career option that was largely influenced by his father. “While growing up, my father did some developments once in a while and I found blue
prints to be very fascinating. I wondered how buildings were designed and constructed and when I later learnt that it was done by architects, I wanted to become one for
sure,” Gad narrates. “My father was also his own boss and I wanted to become my own boss just like him. That has motivated me to work so hard to get to where I am today,”
After graduating in 1998, Architect Opiyo worked at Dice Concepts for three months and thereafter left for Tectura International Architects where he worked on the design of Botswana Public Works headquarters. After spending 4 months in Botswana, he was forced to return to Kenya due to lack of a work permit. Gad decided to start his own firm so he sat for the BORAQS exams and he was registered as an architect in Kenya. In 2002, he registered his firm, the Diaspora Design Build Ltd. “At first, it was for survival tactics. Since I had to put food on the table, I preferred to do design and building on site as it paid more than designing for architectural purposes only,” says Opiyo who has since continued to run his construction company.
Over the years, Gad has diversified into real estate with another company, the Gads Works Holding Ltd. In addition to owning a construction and a real estate company, Gad has also served in various leadership positions. He is also a member of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Real Estate Expo (IREE).
In his nineteen years of practice, Architect Opiyo has done several projects across the country including residential houses, offices, go downs, schools, hotels among others. Some of his projects include; the Gilgil way bridge, Kinondo Golf resort in Diani, Lost Village Resort in Kisumu, Milele apartments in Kisumu, executive maisonettes in Syokimau, studio apartments in Mlolongo, residential buildings in Lavington, Runda and Kileleshwa among others.
What has kept Gad going through the years you ask? “The desire to become my own boss is what has motivated me the most. My first employer, Dr. Reuben Mutiso, was also a great mentor and a source of inspiration.” Gad expresses. “He taught me patience, resilience and tenacity,” he adds. “Today, my fourteen year old firm, Diaspora Design Build Ltd is my greatest source of inspiration. Its day to day operations has taught me financial management, risk, project and human resource management, marketing and supply chain management which is not trained in the profession.” Gad notes, adding that historic patriots like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King also inspire him immensely.
Discipline, time management and focus are among Gad’s key principles in life. A fitness enthusiast, Gad enjoys Yoga, Zumba dancing and golf. He also enjoys intellectual pursuits, reading and public speaking. He is married with three children, two sons and one daughter. He graduated at the Management University of Africa with an Executive
MBA in 2015 and he plans to complete his PHD studies in the next five years. Architect Opiyo aspires to be a great leader in business, family and the public sector. He intends
to grow his business to a one billion figure besides engaging more in Community, institutional and large scale housing projects.
Architect Opiyo describes the architecture industry as very vibrant but with too much censorship. “We are in the 21st century where communication is key to any business
and as we all know, information is power. It’s time to allow architects to market their skills and services out there like any other profession,” says Opiyo. ”The practice needs to be
liberated from the restrictions that exist. We are in a modernized society that can allow the industry to follow the same route,” he adds. He explains further that marketing in
architecture will enable architects to define the boundaries of their profession. Marketing according to Opiyo will expand the profession by promoting competition and creativity
in the field besides eradicating incompetence that is very rampant in the industry. Marketing will also make architectural services affordable to all members of the
society. “Most unprofessional personnel work in the architecture industry because the public is not able to define the roles of architects,” he adds. The laws guarding the architecture industry need to be reviewed so that it merges the current times. “The liberalization of fees is not equivalent to undercutting. Complex projects should have minimum fees guidelines, simple projects like residential houses should be fully liberalized. The 6% scale fee for instance is hardly practiced yet it’s in the law,” “Change is inevitable, architecture industry is undergoing change and therefore the law
needs to catch up,” he insists.
Gad’s advice to fellow practitioners is to be open minded, determined and focused in everything they do. “Strive to be self-employed because it has more potential in the long run even if the beginnings can be somewhat challenging,” he urges them. “Try to also be all rounded. You should not only be a designer but also a good financial manager so that it becomes easy when you start your own business.” He advises. In terms of scale in form, Opiyo would like to see more harmonized city scapes. “There is too much drama in design today. Architects need to tone down the look of a building in order to bring harmony in the landscape,” Opiyo concludes.