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Cummings criticizes engineering at Clare Valley housing project

Cummings criticizes engineering at Clare Valley housing project


A significant number of houses at the government housing development in Clare Valley are at risk of collapsing because of poor construction.

This is the opinion of Opposition parliamentarian Daniel Cummings, which he shared while speaking on the New Times programme on Wednesday, about the recent collapse of a house {{more}}in a government housing development in Clare Valley.

Cummings, the parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, who is a civil engineer by profession, said he visited the site and noted what he considers to be a number of issues with the construction of the houses there.

“I am not here purporting to say that all of those houses are poorly built. There are some houses that are not 100 per cent properly built, but they will survive and there are little things that the homeowners can do to correct them, but I’m saying … a significant number of those houses are at grave risk because they are very improperly constructed; a significant number and it requires a team of professionals,” said Cummings on Wednesday.

The New Democratic Party shadow minister for Transport and Works, Energy, Water and Housing made reference to the type of soil in the area and what could happen if proper construction guidelines are not followed.

“When it is dry, it is extremely hard and it gives you the appearance of wonderful footing and quite clearly, what these jokers – because only somebody who has absolutely no common sense or any knowledge at all about construction would do what they did; they excavated a flimsy footing and built columns on top of that clay for one part of the house and the higher part of the house was built more or less on the bedrock,” Cummings said.

He also highlighted the construction of the columns that some houses were built on.

“I took time to examine the columns and the beams and I state categorically from what I’ve seen that there is no problem with the quantum of steel, either the main steel or the stirrups. They look fine; but you find columns varying from eight inches square to 12 inches square and ironically, some of the tallest columns are the narrowest columns. In addition, the footing for these columns is flimsy to say the least, and there is no tying the columns; in other words each column is resting on a footing on its own. There is no ground tying,” he explained.

In addition, Cummings described the Clare Valley housing project as “a ticking time bomb” with a number of issues and declared that if he were teaching a class of engineering students, he would take them to Clare Valley to highlight how engineering should not be practised.

Based on his observations, Cummings opined that there was no engineering supervision when these houses were being built.

“It is very clear to me that if there were any engineering supervision on that project, they either fell asleep or they never went to the site,” he said.

“Any engineer looking at that would get nightmares. [It] should not have happened. It’s just a comedy of errors. It’s as though somebody got up one morning and decides to hell with all the rules, let’s do it this way, see how much short cut we can make.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that he and officials from the relevant Ministries and the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) will be addressing the Clare Valley matter with “urgency.”

Speaking on WE FM, the Prime Minister said whatever the number of houses affected, the necessary corrective work would be done by the Government.

According to the Prime Minister, a preliminary report, submitted by chief engineer Brent Bailey points to three main problems being at the root of the incident: the clay-like structure of the soil in that particular area; the foundation columns not being placed as deep as they should have been; and poor drainage on the housing estate that “compromised the integrity of the dwelling.”

The Prime Minister said that all concerned parties will move forward in conducting a preliminary re-assessment, a complete assessment, a scientific assessment, and costing of ensuing remedial work.

On September 19, at about 4 p.m., the three-bedroom house, in which Dr Katisha Douglas had lived for the past 18 months, collapsed. Luckily, no one was at home at the time of the collapse.

Dr Douglas said two months ago she felt the house shake and noticed cracks in the structure. Two weeks ago, she observed a large crack in the column on the porch after several hours of heavy rain. Her observations had been reported to the HLDC.(BK)