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Material Standards for small buildings

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The quality and types of material used in the construction of buildings is an important aspects of the building code.

For large commercial buildings, engineers and architects pay careful attention to the quality and type of material. These design professionals sign off on the plans and can be held liable for future failure.

However in smaller buildings such as homes, few people can afford the services of an engineer and architect and this is where the guidelines to the building code help home owners.{{more}}

The guidelines are user-friendly, written in easy-to-understand language and filled with drawings and illustrations which provide direction for concrete, timber and steel frame structures. The guidelines provide for the design and construction of new residential or retail buildings containing not more than 2500 square feet of gross floor area and two storeys high.

CONCRETE

The guidelines provide information on what quality concrete should be used as well as steel reinforcements. The tables in the guidelines show the diameter of the steel, how and where it should be placed to reinforce the concrete, and how the concrete should be mixed and the time required for curing. The approximate proportions normally required to provide a mix of adequate strength are 1 bag of cement (94 lbs.), 2 cubic foot of sand, 4 cubic foot of stone and about 5 gallons of water.

There are details for roof construction, styles, and pitches as well as how to construct the foundation, columns, beams and the limits of the weight that should be placed on these.

When applying for planning permission after the code comes into effect in 2007, detailed drawings must be filed with the Physical Planning Unit. The structural detail drawings in the guidelines are useful in this regard as there are a variety of styles from which to choose.

TIMBER

Wooden homes, as with concrete homes, can be constructed to withstand hurricane and seismic activity – two of the hazards to which St Vincent and the Grenadines is susceptible.

The guidelines provide illustrations on how to properly brace wooden buildings, secure foundations, and reinforce the roof to withstand hurricane force winds and earthquakes.

STEEL STRUCTURES

The guidelines provide for the use of “cold form steel” which is something similar to a frame used in timber construction. Instructions are provided to show how to securely attach walls, roofs, and foundations to withstand the natural hazards to which St Vincent and the Grenadines is susceptible. However, cold form steel is not widely used here.

MATERIALS

The materials to be used in either concrete, timber or steel frame buildings are specified in the code. Once it comes into effect, efforts will be made to ensure these materials are available from all retail outlets. The St Vincent and the Grenadines Bureau of Standards is charged with the responsibility of enforcing that aspect of the code and guidelines to ensure that no sub-standard materials are imported and sold. The regulations are not intended to prevent the use of construction, materials or methods of designs as alternates since such alternates may be offered for approval. New types of construction, materials or design must be at least equal to the standards of the code.

Owners, developers and applicants should be aware of and consult the following legislation and other revelant legislation in force: Consumer Protection (Bureau of Standards) Act No. 70 of 1992.

EXCAVATION

Excavation for the foundation of the home is an important aspect of building construction, as if done properly ensures the strength and durability of the structure.

The guidelines provide clear instruction on what measures must be taken during excavation particularly when dealing with certain types of soils. When constructing on clay, it is recommended that professional advice must be sought before planning the foundation.

Compaction may be necessary to increase the bearing strength of soil or to support ground floor on fill. Fill under floor is sometimes preferred on slightly sloping areas. Where fills greater than 3ft are required, the floor should be constructed as a suspended reinforced slab. This will prevent ultimate collapse of the floor.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

The guidelines also show where to place openings in the wall, such as windows and doors and describe the pitfalls of placing them in the wrong locations, such as close to a corner. This could significantly weaken the structure and make it fair game for a hurricane or earthquake.

Plumbing, electrical, and waste water disposal facilities are also covered by the guidelines.

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