Consultations to amend Building Code underway

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By Carlena Knight

The Development Control Authority (DCA) is currently holding consultations aimed at revising the 7th edition of the OECS Building Code.

These consultations, according to the Chief Town and Country Planner, Frederick Southwell, were influenced by recent natural disasters and the need for the region to adapt in order to withstand such occurrences.

“We saw a very powerful earthquake in Haiti where over a quarter of a million people died. We also saw some unusually powerful hurricanes and some severe droughts, and so the planners across the region found it necessary to revise the Building Code. The OECS Building Code has been drafted in 2016 and so each Caribbean territory can review it and tweak it to their respective local conditions,” Southwell said.

Head of the revision committee and Building Code Specialist, Colin John Jenkins gave an overview of how the consultations are being conducted.

“The 18 sections range from fire to earthquakes, roads, structural, architectural, and what we are doing is going through the Code — it’s over 400 pages — and see how we can make it more suitable to our context,” Jenkins said.

“Let me say that the Code itself is a well written document and has been developing over the years, [and] events ever so often allow you to look back at the Code, determine how you can make it even more robust and resilient to our conditions. It is an ongoing process and if we see everything in there is fine, then it will stay that way.”

One key aspect that will be added to the Building Code is a penalty for contractors who do not follow the minimum standards of the Code itself. These plans, Southwell revealed, are already before Cabinet awaiting approval.

“When a plan comes into the DCA, we do not approve it unless the structure has provisions for water harvesting and storage. Some houses may not have a cistern but may make provisions for one of these plastic tanks; the plan is approved with that. However, when persons go and build, they may construct the house and not include the foundation or the basement for the plastic tank and so they end up going without water storage. The DCA is looking at putting in place a fee structure where if persons get approval for building something such as that and they do not, then a fine can be brought against them,” he said.

Regarding the overall process of releasing the revised Code, Jenkins noted that the hope was a three-month window, but with new factors at play, the plan is to roll out the new measures before the end of the year. The two-part process is in its first stage with the consultations and technical dialogue, while the second stage will see the public weighing in with suggestions or concerns about the proposed amendments.

Some amendments will also have to be made to several laws to accommodate some of the new recommendations as well.

Several other entities to include Antigua Public Utilities Authority, the Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping, and the Bureau of Standards are taking part in the consultation.

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