Building codes in Caribbean strong, but must be enforced

by B. Roach

A CMC article out of Dominica by Peter Richards, the Caribbean’s roving journalist, captioned ‘Expert warns Caribbean to heed lessons from Hurricane Maria’ comes after comments and advice from Linda A.S. Dias, Government of Montserrat’s Chief Architect, made 18 days earlier when she said, “the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma is NOT an indictment on the construction techniques within the Eastern Caribbean.”

Newtown, an area in Dominica-

Dias said, “The building codes in the Eastern Caribbean dictate that buildings should be designed to take wind speeds of between 154mph – 180mph, depending on the location and category of building.”

She argued further, specifically regarding OECS islands: “Each island that the OECS Building Code accounts for that was affected by Hurricane Irma, has buildings that can withstand storms up to the following wind speeds:”

She named: Antigua & Barbuda – 168 mph;
Anguilla – 176 mph;
British Virgin Islands – 180 mph;
St. Kitts & Nevis – 170 mph;
and Montserrat – 172 mph.

She further contends, “Irma is an anomaly of a superstorm that hit the islands at 185 mph,” and …a fluke of nature.”

She concluded also as she explains pointing out: “Our construction techniques in the Caribbean region have improved considerably after 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit the Eastern Caribbean and caused a considerable amount of damage. Hurricane straps, ties, the distance between rafters, etc. were all rethought and strengthened. Although we always welcome new and improved construction technologies, our Building Code is sound, and many of our construction techniques are superior to those in many international countries.”

But the young Montserrat Chief Architect notes later, “I think the main problem that we have in Montserrat and all over the region is enforcement of the code…”

She hopes that following the passing of Irma, “building and construction practices would change to reduce the chances of this type of mass destruction reoccurring in the region.”

Peter Richards in his article quotes a senior lecturer at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) who, “says one of the “biggest lessons” from the Hurricane Maria experience in Dominica is that it is important for the Caribbean to now “seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane”.

Richards puts Dr. Richard Clarke of the Department of Civil Engineering, in Dominica on the weekend as part of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), and who told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), it was also necessary for the region to examine the wind speeds of designs for constructing buildings in the Caribbean.

Clarke said: “The biggest lesson that we have learnt is that it is important for us to seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane, on the level of the wind speed we need to be designing for.

“If we have to go with only historical records, meaning prior to the increase in the effect of global warming then we will be out even if we design to the current wind speeds when the effects of global warming kicks in, we would have under designed the structure.

“So we seriously need to investigate the impact of global warming on the current design wind speeds for the Caribbean.”

Miss Dias, when she says, “many of our construction techniques are superior to those in many international countries,” confirms Dr. Clarke’s later assertion citing as above, to consider, “the impact of global warning on the level of hurricance…”

Dr. Clarke said while this (design to the current wind speeds when the effects of global warming kicks in), would be among the recommendations he would be submitting to the authorities following his early assessment of the impact of Hurricane Maria on Dominica, it is nonetheless well known to engineers worldwide.

Clarke told CMC the other recommendation to the authorities is “a traditional one in the sense that we know that it happens and why it happens but it doesn’t make sense having a building code and it is sitting down on a shelve.

Like Dias, Dr. Clarke told CMC: “If we want to seriously avoid the problems of the impact of the hurricane on people’s lives we simply have to enforce the building codes.”

He said further, “The issue would be to get the differing engineering organisations to form groups that would try and impact or impress upon government the need for modernising or treating differently the effect of global warming and other natural phenomena on the design process to mitigate the effect of this.”

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The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017

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by B. Roach

A CMC article out of Dominica by Peter Richards, the Caribbean’s roving journalist, captioned ‘Expert warns Caribbean to heed lessons from Hurricane Maria’ comes after comments and advice from Linda A.S. Dias, Government of Montserrat’s Chief Architect, made 18 days earlier when she said, “the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma is NOT an indictment on the construction techniques within the Eastern Caribbean.”

Newtown, an area in Dominica-

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Dias said, “The building codes in the Eastern Caribbean dictate that buildings should be designed to take wind speeds of between 154mph – 180mph, depending on the location and category of building.”

She argued further, specifically regarding OECS islands: “Each island that the OECS Building Code accounts for that was affected by Hurricane Irma, has buildings that can withstand storms up to the following wind speeds:”

She named: Antigua & Barbuda – 168 mph;
Anguilla – 176 mph;
British Virgin Islands – 180 mph;
St. Kitts & Nevis – 170 mph;
and Montserrat – 172 mph.

She further contends, “Irma is an anomaly of a superstorm that hit the islands at 185 mph,” and …a fluke of nature.”

She concluded also as she explains pointing out: “Our construction techniques in the Caribbean region have improved considerably after 1989, when Hurricane Hugo hit the Eastern Caribbean and caused a considerable amount of damage. Hurricane straps, ties, the distance between rafters, etc. were all rethought and strengthened. Although we always welcome new and improved construction technologies, our Building Code is sound, and many of our construction techniques are superior to those in many international countries.”

But the young Montserrat Chief Architect notes later, “I think the main problem that we have in Montserrat and all over the region is enforcement of the code…”

She hopes that following the passing of Irma, “building and construction practices would change to reduce the chances of this type of mass destruction reoccurring in the region.”

Peter Richards in his article quotes a senior lecturer at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) who, “says one of the “biggest lessons” from the Hurricane Maria experience in Dominica is that it is important for the Caribbean to now “seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane”.

Richards puts Dr. Richard Clarke of the Department of Civil Engineering, in Dominica on the weekend as part of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), and who told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), it was also necessary for the region to examine the wind speeds of designs for constructing buildings in the Caribbean.

Clarke said: “The biggest lesson that we have learnt is that it is important for us to seriously consider the impact of global warming on the level of the hurricane, on the level of the wind speed we need to be designing for.

“If we have to go with only historical records, meaning prior to the increase in the effect of global warming then we will be out even if we design to the current wind speeds when the effects of global warming kicks in, we would have under designed the structure.

“So we seriously need to investigate the impact of global warming on the current design wind speeds for the Caribbean.”

Miss Dias, when she says, “many of our construction techniques are superior to those in many international countries,” confirms Dr. Clarke’s later assertion citing as above, to consider, “the impact of global warning on the level of hurricance…”

Dr. Clarke said while this (design to the current wind speeds when the effects of global warming kicks in), would be among the recommendations he would be submitting to the authorities following his early assessment of the impact of Hurricane Maria on Dominica, it is nonetheless well known to engineers worldwide.

Clarke told CMC the other recommendation to the authorities is “a traditional one in the sense that we know that it happens and why it happens but it doesn’t make sense having a building code and it is sitting down on a shelve.

Like Dias, Dr. Clarke told CMC: “If we want to seriously avoid the problems of the impact of the hurricane on people’s lives we simply have to enforce the building codes.”

He said further, “The issue would be to get the differing engineering organisations to form groups that would try and impact or impress upon government the need for modernising or treating differently the effect of global warming and other natural phenomena on the design process to mitigate the effect of this.”