Resilience and Sustainability: watchwords for new Building Code

BIS Photos/Raymond A. Bethel, Sr.

As stakeholders assembled to chart the way forward for the upgrade of the Bahamas Building Code, the Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities underscored the need to build for the future with more resilience and sustainability.

“My role is to express the urgency, to reaffirm the government’s commitment to put more emphasis and priority on renewable power generation and that as we build for the future we build with more resilience, sustainability.

“As stakeholders, you are the scientists, architects, quantity surveyors, construction specialists who construct, design, maintain the built environment, the public infrastructure of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and therefore your wisdom, expertise, your experience must inform this process to [examine] our Building Code, the Planning and Subdivision Act and all of the relevant legislation of which we are reviewing amendments, and in some instances coming with an entirely new act,” said Minister Sears.

He described the event as an exercise in collaboration for the future, the safety, the well-being of participants and the future generation.

The Bahamas Building Code Stakeholder Focus Group, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Works and Utilities, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Mott MacDonald through Integrated Building Services, met Wednesday, April 27 at the Town Planning Hearing Room, University Drive. The current Building Code was issued approximately 20 years ago. A Consultancy Agreement for the Bahamas Building Code Upgrade incorporating Coastal Infrastructure Design Guidance has been made possible through a loan agreement with the Government of The Bahamas and the IDB. Charlene Collie is the Project Coordinator for the Climate-Resilient Coastal Management and Infrastructure Program.

Minister Sears remarked, “God help The Bahamas as we go into this next hurricane season,” pointing out the precarious position the nation is in with each bout.

He cited a “sobering” report by a group of architects, building contractors, engineers, building control inspectors and specialists containing wide-ranging recommendations, and which he shared and tabled in the House of Assembly.

“You said, the examination of the damaged and destroyed buildings and reconnaissance team revealed significant exposure to either one or more of the following factors: the absence of minimum building code requirements for maintaining structural integrity through design of a super structure or roof framing tie-down methods; evidence of severe corrosion of metal connections and aged or termite infested timber structural members; effects of tidal surges.”

Minister Sears said members of the team were unanimous that the lack of code enforcement was a major contributor to the severity of the damage that occurred in Abaco and Grand Bahama by Hurricane Dorian. Anyone who would have previously denied the reality of greenhouses gases and impact on the climate – after having lived through Dorian would have come to a clear conclusion that we cannot proceed with business as usual.

“What was even more sobering to me after having been appointed is, two years later I went to Abaco and to the Cays and it is heart wrenching to see the infrastructure necessary for fishing communities to thrive – docks, ramps — still in the state of disrepair, also seawalls which protect the road and communities still in need of repair in east Grand Bahama and West End and many parts of Abaco and the Cays.

“I had a sense of urgency before I went to Abaco and Grand Bahama, but I know all of us especially those who would have gone immediately after the hurricane and assessed the immediate post hurricane situation. We have to do things differently.

“Then when I read the literature on the Paris Convention and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that there is a growing consensus that we cannot proceed as we have in the past and we must reduce the carbon footprint of all countries. It is in that context that this stakeholder consultation assumes such urgency.”

In summary of the program overview, Ms. Collie said the overall objective of the consultancy is to conduct a comprehensive assessment and comparative analysis of the content of both the Bahamas Building Code 2003 and other global standards, including the International Code Council’s International Building CODE 2018, considering their major strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, international best practices and current legislative policies to determine the most practical and efficient form of standards for use within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The agenda for discussion included: the current and future code, climate resilience and sustainability.

More photo highlights below:

Presenters seated from left: Melanie Roach, Director; Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary; Minister of Works and Utilities the Hon. Alfred Sears; and Charlene Collie, Project Coordinator for the Climate-Resilient Coastal Management and Infrastructure Program.

The Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities speaking with the press.