Call him a pioneer. Talk of an alpha in all spheres of life – at school, as a professional and in matters of leadership as far as architecture, building and construction is concerned and even beyond. This is the story of Architect Steven Oundo , OGW.
The sports diehard and a gifted Master of Ceremonies is also a father to five and a widower. A humble, easy going and free spirited servant leader – Architect Steven B. W. Oundo is a familiar name in the built environment fraternity.
Born in 1971, the 47 year old architect is an epitome of what opportunities career/profession can instigate for a bold and passionate individual. He has handled every blow of life with courage, turning challenges into opportunities and ensuring a breath of change in everything that comes to his hold.
Steven is a man of many firsts; dating back from 1985 – He was among the first group of students who sat for KCPE under the 8-4-4 education system. In 1989, he was the 2nd best overall student in the country from Mang’u High School in the KCSE exams. In campus, Steve was again among the first group of students to do 6 years bachelor’s degree in architecture.
Arch. Steven is a born leader. Not just because he falls in the premier category within the academic scope, but also because he has spearheaded major transformation in the built industry through the various positions he has held up-to-date.
But just how has Steve visualized his quick growth in the industry? His love for challenges was his magnet into architecture, not to mention his brilliance in Maths and Sciences. He was told how challenging the career would be and that led him into its pursuit. Upon graduating with Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Nairobi in 1997, Steve sought to sell his final year project (a state of the art trade exhibition centre) which Free Mark Company contracted, hence hiring him for the project. He developed proposals on low cost housing using fabricated panel houses which was being spearheaded by then Managing Director Mr. Nelson Kajuma at ‘Free Mark Trade Centre’ in the present Lunar Park grounds next to Uhuru Park.
After working with Free Mark for 8 months, Steven left and joined Trioscape Architects as an assistant architect in late 1997. He sat for his professional exams with BORAQS in 1999 and was registered as an architect in 2000 becoming a corporate member with AAK the same year. In 2000, Steve became a partner at Trioscape and then a director later in 2005 when Trioscape became a limited company.
Besides architectural practice, Steven has distinguished himself as a professional through fundamental involvement in the revolution of the construction industry. He has served in senior capacities in the AAK, BORAQS, EAIA, AUA, CAA, APSEA and NCA just to mention but a few.
We look at each of the bodies he has served in and the impact he has laid:
Architectural Association of Kenya – AAK
Steve was elected the Hon. Registrar of the Architects Chapter in 2001 and later as the Hon. Secretary in 2003. In 2005, he was elected the vice chair of the chapter. In 2007, Steve was elected as the Vice Chair of AAK and in 2009, he became the chairman until March 2013. He was the longest serving chairman in the history of the association.
Remarkable milestones in his tenure include spearheading the exemption of professionals from paying for single business permit to the local government, a regulation that was granted by the Act of Parliament after over ten years of advocacy i.e. from the year 2000 to the year 2010.
Steven also advocated for the elimination of financial proposals for consultants during procurement of professional services, regulated by the Act of Parliament. The regulation has ensured that consultants only compete on technical proposals upon which contracts are awarded for consultancy services and not professional fees as otherwise stipulated. This culminated in the issuance of circular from PPOA in February 2012 which demanded that professionals should not bid for less than the minimums specified in their various Acts that touch on professional fees.
During his term also, Steven organized a meeting of the Governing Council of the Association with His Excellency Former President Mwai Kibaki in October 2010 where they discussed developmental projects among other issues.
Following this initiative, he was nominated for the National Honors Award and received the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) honors from H.E. The President for distinguished service to the profession and the nation.
In the chair capacity again, Steve proposed to parliament to identify one project per constituency upon which AAK members would offer their professional services on probono basis with CDF meeting direct expenses of the projects. The aim of this proposal was to show value for consultation, quality, money and time in execution of construction projects as well as demystify the common perspective of professional fee being expensive. They managed to get 22 constituencies to submit their projects before the end of last parliament. These projects are still ongoing.
He was also instrumental in digitalization of architectural and structural drawing submissions for approval by the local authority. He spearheaded this collaboration between the Nairobi City Council (presently the Nairobi City County) and the AAK. Today, submissions are done online – a move that has cut out quarks and ensured that only legitimate consultants registered by their respective registration boards can submit their drawings for approval hence reducing incidences of collapsing of buildings occasioned by supervision by non professionals in developments.
Another memorable event in his tenure is the Annual International Society of Urban and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Conference held at KICC in 2010. The conference attracted over 1000 participants from all over the world, recording the most successful attendance in the history of ISOCARP.
Board of Registration for Architects and Quantity Surveyors – BORAQS
Steven was appointed a board member in 2009 and reappointed in 2012. He served as the chairman of PR & Functions committee from 2009 to 2011. He also served as the Boards’ chair of Educational committee from 2011 to 2012. He has been a member of the committee of Ethics and Practice in the Board since 2012. Steve also conducted oral exams from 2007 until 2012.
Africa Union of Architects – AUA
Steve chaired the AUA committee on Architecture and Culture from 2008 to 2011. He was then elected treasurer of the Union in 2011 a position he holds to date. He has seen growth of member institutes in good standing from 25 to 35 over this period. He is currently involved in the AUA constitution committee review committee.
East Africa Institute of Architects – EAIA
Steve served as the treasurer of the institute from 2006 to 2007. In 2010, he became the second vice president until 2011. In his term, he fostered the mutual recognition agreement that allows cross border practice of architects within the East African region.
CommonWealth Association of Architects – CAA
Steve was the alternate vice president for the East African region at CAA since 2010 until 2013 when he was elected to the CAA Council as the Chair of Practice. Steven here has overseen the accreditation and validation of UoN and JKUAT schools of architecture. He is also currently involved in the revision of the CAA constitution.
National Construction Authority – NCA
Steve has been the chair of this new parastatal since November 2012. The Authority which was established to oversee the construction industry and coordinate development has so far registered over 18,000 contractors in their various classes and categories. In his capacity also, Steve has facilitated over ten CPD and sensitization workshops across the country. He also pursued the passing of regulations with Parliament to operationalise the NCA ACT 2011 in recruiting their own staff since they had been operating with seconded staff from the Ministries of Lands, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry. Steve has also been involved in a bench marking exercise to explore functionality of the best practices around the world in order to improve that of NCA in Kenya.
Association of Professional Societies in East Africa – APSEA
APSEA is body for all Professional Associations in East Africa that advocates for the highest professional standards and ethics in the public interest.
Steven joined APSEA the APSEA Council in 2003. He became the second vice chair of the Association from 2007 to 2009. He was then elected senior vice chair from 2009 until 2013 he was elected Chairman.
APSEA was very instrumental in the formation and implementation of the new constitution of Kenya. It is practically recognized in all commissions formed and the Acts involved in all selection panels for commissioners. Last Year as APSEA Chair, Steve signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission in order to fight the vice of corruption where it is said “Behind every corrupt deed there is a professional involved.” Under this partnership also, APSEA has managed to get code of Ethics and Conducts for 13 professional associations in the last 5 years.
Trioscape Planning Services LTD
Steve is also a practicing architect and a director of Trioscape Planning Services Ltd since 2000.
In that regard, he holds signature to several architectural projects which the firm has been involved in. Cardinal Otunga Plaza is the most notable of them all.
The building sits at the intersection of Koinange and Kaunda streets, next to the bell tower of the Holy Family Minor Basilica, east of Teleposta towers with City hall on its south and Catholic Parochial Primary School on its north.
The Catholic Church wanted a building that would house all the operations of the Archdiocese of Nairobi. The brief required a modern outlook of the building with a historical impression of traditional architecture.
The Trioscape Team responded to the brief by introducing Doric columns in the main entrance facade, a classic order of the old Greek Architecture believed to convey a statement of authority in the structure. They also mimicked the use of large horizontal keys to give an impression of the traditional large stone architecture.
The project was completed in 2013. It was named after late Cardinal Maurice Otunga who came up with the original idea of the project in the 1970’s.
Steve was mainly involved in support of the design process and supervision.
Steve has had his share of challenges in life, the major one was losing his wife in 2010 when their lastborn son was barely a year old. Steve has however managed through the difficult times with the support of his family.
Career wise, his major challenge is balancing time between office operations and public service in the many professional bodies he serves in without spreading himself too thin.
Evident from his story, Steve commands the rare multi-tasking ability. But besides that, his greatest wealth is his social capital and networking skills where he is able to access and knock on the doors of practically all the who-is-who in this country. You will also be right to say that he can handle pressure and still deliver. Such capacity coupled with fearless pursuit of people’s agenda lays a firm foundation for a possible presidential candidate in the near future! You never know!
And when he has done all this, he will study law – just for the title of the ‘learned friend’