Proven Solutions To Substandard Building Construction

The problems associated with sub-standard construction are well known in the Caribbean, and various initiatives have been tried to address them, including the following.

  • Published building standards.
  • Building inspectors.
  • Educational books and pamphlets.
  • Educational video and audio programs.
  • Educational public seminars.
  • Vocational training of artisans.
  • Educational seminars for building contractors.
  • Television and radio educational programs.
  • Demonstration houses.

For most of these initiatives, there was no noticeable improvement in the structural quality of the buildings, and no reduction in the level of damage once the island was subsequently examined by a major hazard.  There have only been two initiatives which appear to have significantly reduced the level of damage to houses from natural disasters.

The first initiative was the effective enforcement of national building standards.  This was evident during Hurricane Luis in 1996, which impacted the island shared by the Netherlands and France.  The Dutch Saint Maarten had building standards that were not rigorously enforced.  The French St Martin had the most effective enforcement mechanism in the Caribbean.  The damage to the Dutch side of the island, which was impacted by lower wind speeds, suffered catastrophic damage. The French side, which was impacted by higher wind speeds, received comparably minor damage.

The second initiative was offering a ½ day training workshop to all of a nation’s building supervisors and artisans.   In 2004, immediately following the passage of Hurricane Ivan, the President visited every parish in Grenada except one – Carriacou.  Training was provided to almost all of the nation’s construction supervisors and artisans in order to facilitate a higher standard of repairs and strengthening.  The following year, Hurricane Emily struck Grenada causing severe damage mainly to the only parish where the President did not carry out training – Carriacou.  Subsequent visits to Carriacou revealed that buildings that were damaged by Ivan in 2004 were repaired in a substandard manner, and damaged again by Emily in 2005.

Walbrent College combines both initiatives, where construction supervisors are targeted for training, and their work is carefully inspected following the training.

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