Ministry of Public Works exposes contractors to best practices for building houses

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Selena Curry, Senior Building Inspector, speaks to participants at the Contractor’s Workshop.

Local contractors and other persons employed in the construction industry were today armed with knowledge of how to build resilient homes that can withstand up to Category 5 hurricanes. The Ministry of Public Works (MOPW) in conjunction with the Caribbean Development Bank, through the Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services Network, hosted a one-day workshop, March 19, to educate, train and develop small contractors, artisans and building inspectors on techniques, best practices and products to ensure improved construction of houses. The theme for the workshop was ‘Partnering to Provide Hurricane Resilient Housing Throughout The Bahamas.’

The workshop was held at Holy Trinity Activity Centre and comprised three sessions which were led by Selena Curry, Senior Building Inspector and Timothy Johnson, Acting Chief Architect.  In 2018, Ms. Curry and Mr. Johnson attended a regional Train-the-Trainer workshop in Barbados which focused on improved practices for the construction of houses. The workshop was designed for participants to facilitate national workshops in their respective countries and share the knowledge gained with others.  Mr. Curry and Ms. Johnson exposed participants to important construction practices and touched on topics including: bracing methods, how to address properties with cavities, site inspections, safe construction, building standards and more. Director of Public Works Melanie Roach, who read welcome remarks on behalf of Antoinette Thompson, Acting Permanent Secretary, said the initiative is a necessary undertaking because of the need to safeguard, maintain and protect the country’s environment and assets moving forward.

“We know that when we have attended to those things the possibilities can be limited: we can address and mitigate against unprecedented weather systems as a result of climate change because we will be faced with the capabilities and competencies by virtue of this training.” Parliamentary Secretary, Iram Lewis spoke on behalf of the Hon. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Public Works.  He said The Bahamas is increasingly experiencing stronger hurricane force winds, sea surges and tornadoes which have the capacity to cause major damage to homes, especially those not built to The Bahamas Building Code standard; and it is imperative that contractors implement the knowledge imparted to them. “It is also important that you understand that this workshop training is not intended to replace our building code standards, but to enhance awareness and improve areas where we have become complacent and oftentimes take short cuts.”

Mr. Lewis said the housing sector is one of the major areas often severely affected by natural disasters because of the havoc and mental and economical trauma left behind.

“This is due in part to the large percentage of houses in the Caribbean that are constructed by the informal building sector which operates outside of the formal construction industry and is loosely regulated by the planning authorities. This segment as we know is occupied by artisans and small contractors who construct houses that are not in keeping with the building codes mainly due to their lack of knowledge and absence of government compliance requirements.

He said it has come to the attention of the MOPW that many contractors have become negligent in supervising and adhering to best construction practices  including the following: failure to visit the proposed building site to determine the proper construction procedures required in instances of unlevelled terrain, cavities and high soil density areas; laying out the foundation without establishing proper boundary markers; overlooking high water prone areas; building without a permit or using an invalid building permit number to appease the client.

The Parliamentary Secretary reminded the audience that times have changed and it is incumbent that they change with the times to combat aggressive climate transformation, and so circumvent major catastrophic damage not only to houses in New Providence and Grand Bahama but throughout The Bahamas.  More importantly, to prevent the loss of lives.

Iram Lewis, Parliamentary Secretary, is pictured at the National Contractor’s Workshop of the Ministry of Public Works, in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, March 19, 2019 at Holy Trinity Activity Centre.

Mr. Hanna, contractor, makes a point during the workshop.

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