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Urgent need to implement, police new building code

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16.JUN.06

Editor: In my opinion, a dangerous trend is developing in our construction industry where some builders are compromising the integrity of the building being constructed by minimizing the steel component, either to cut cost for the owner because of the increases in building materials mainly steel and cement; or to minimize the construction period to increase his income from the building contract.{{more}}

The general trend in SVG is to construct the first floor of our dream home on columns for two main reasons; the topography of the land and the construction cost. The ground floor is normally constructed later when we “catch our hand”.

Having observed several construction sites recently, from a layman’s perspective, several similarities exist: the first floor of the houses were being constructed on columns using half inch steel rods instead of five-eights steel rods. In addition, columns are not tied to each other at the foundation stage and walls are constructed without a length of steel. In these cases, absolutely no attention is given to weights and pressure vis-à-vis steel quantities.

The constant degradation of our global environment according to scientists can only increase our risk of being affected by natural disasters. The practice of constructing weaker homes to save a dollar today is not the way to go if we are mitigating risk. Also, those builders who practice this method or who fail to advise their clients accordingly because they can save a dollar by reducing the construction period are dishonest and at the same time exposing our housing stock to serious risk. The IMF in their last public notice on June 2 2006 on SVG, complemented the Government on the good progress made in boosting our disaster mitigation and preparedness, through the drafting of a national disaster plan, but one of the IMF’s recommendations is for “better enforcement of the building codes”.

We are a people who take pride in our beautiful homes but they are only as strong as the materials used in constructing them, mainly the steel structure. For most of us, our homes will be the biggest investment we will ever make and one that will take over 25 years to repay. I am therefore calling for the urgent implementation and policing of a new building code so that we are protected against those dishonest builders, to ensure that our investment is not only beautiful but also structurally sound, and to minimize the risk to our housing stock.

Cerlian “Maff” Russell

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