‘Lax’ building practices link to storm damage

A large number of hurricane-damaged homes are built by construction companies that fail to comply with The Bahamas’ building code, a government official has said.

Iram Lewis, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Public Works, revealed that much of the government’s post-hurricane resources were being consumed by roof repairs to homes that were either not insured or under-insured.

A large percentage of these homes, he added, are built by construction companies that do not adhere to the building code either through lack of knowledge or absence of government compliance requirements.

“Categorically speaking, the housing sector is one of the major areas that is often severely affected by these natural disasters. Not only because of the havoc caused on the housing sector but the mental and economic havoc,” Mr Lewis said.

He was speaking at a one-day workshop for contractors to assist them in improving construction practices, staged last Thursday by the Ministry of Public Works and the Caribbean Development Bank.

Held under the theme, Partnering to provide hurricane resilient housing throughout The Bahamas, the workshop’s objective was to educate and train artisans, small contractors and building inspectors on various techniques, industry standards, best practices and products so that homes are constructed to withstand up to Category 5 hurricanes.

Mr Lewis said: “As you are aware, in The Bahamas we are increasingly experiencing stronger hurricane force winds, high sea surges and even tornadoes that have the capacity to cause major damage to homes, especially those not built up to building code standard, which as a result can in some cases lead to loss of lives.”

He urged workshop participants to obtain as much information as possible and, more importantly, implement this in their building practices.

“It is important that you understand that this workshop training is not intended to replace our building code standard, which incidentally is one of the strongest in the Caribbean, but rather to heighten its awareness and improve areas where we have become lax,” Mr Lewis explained.

“Knowledge is power, and we aim to empower you today with the knowledge and skills to equip you in the field of construction in order that you may remain current in the construction industry.

“In order to offset some of the challenges small countries in the Caribbean region face as a result of hurricanes, it is vitally important that you not only recognise the damaging effects of the increase in climate change but also plan to construct more resilient type housing that would be sustainable to meet the various challenges throughout The Bahamas.”