Date of Award

Winter 12-2014

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering and Public Policy


Paul Fischbeck

Second Advisor

M. Granger Morgan


In developing countries, poor quality construction has led to spontaneous building collapse and, during earthquakes, to major disasters. While reliable building codes are widely used in design, builders in developing countries often fail to meet acceptable standards. Structural defects are frequently identified too late, often after catastrophic collapse. In Kenya, more than eighty people have been killed, an over 290 injured, by collapsed buildings, since 2006. However, Kenya is not an exception. Throughout the world, in particular in countries with developing economies and growing populations, thousands of dangerously weak buildings will be built, and millions of people will be exposed to unnecessarily higher risks for generations. This research aims at contributing towards finding solutions to this problem by: 1) demonstrating that, in Kenya, many buildings are approved for occupation based on false material strength data produced by ineffective quality-control methods; 2) engaging the help of experts in Kenyan construction to list and ranked probable causes and plausible solutions to the problem of unsafe construction practices in Kenya; 3) presenting a method and a simulation model to estimate the damages in Nairobi (or other cities in Africa) in case of and earthquake, which can be used by policy makers when evaluating alternative policy interventions; and 4) proposing a strategy that combines the enforcement of quality reporting for construction, the open publication of the reports, the diffusion of non-destructive testing in construction, a risk communication program, and internet forums to help educate and provide guidance to the public in good construction practices.