Barbados will continue to suffer from ‘sick buildings’ and lose hundreds of millions of dollars in disruptions and closures unless the country’s building code is made mandatory by law, the island’s association of certified engineers has warned.
And the president of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE), Trevor Browne, has seemingly challenged as a “waste of time” the Mottley Administration’s likely plans for a maintenance committee or other arrangements to monitor buildings.
“For many, many years we have been trying to get these regulations passed. These regulations relate, not only to the environmental aspects of the building, but also the strength of the building in terms of hurricane resilience and things like that. This, as yet, remains outstanding. And this is the fundamental reason. If you allow people to build buildings in a way that maximizes profits, you can almost predict that down the road, there are going to be consequences,” Browne told Barbados TODAY.
The BAPE president’s comments came amid a series of closures of public schools, the Supreme Court and other Government buildings owing to environmental problems that have resulted in scores of workers falling ill, loss of business and productivity, and medical bills.
The warning coincided with a reminder today by Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sandra Husbands that an active maintenance programme for all public buildings is a Government priority.
That programme she suggested, would involve “protocols for cleaning, and the appropriate chemicals or non-chemicals used to clean the environment”.
But the professional engineering umbrella body argued that such initiatives will not solve the longstanding environmental issues plaguing not only public buildings but private ones as well.
Browne referred to the Barbados National Standards Institution’s (BSNI) “excellent job” in creating a building code”, but said his organization’s calls to past Governments over the last 30 years for the code to be entrenched in law, had fallen on deaf ears.
“One of the last things that the last Government did was to introduce their idea of a building code in the House [of Assembly] but that never saw the ight of day, and obviously, it remains outstanding. That was never completed. Since the 1980s, the BAPE has been asking and lobbying for the passage of a building code in Barbados. I don’t think it is a single Minister we haven’t approach with that specific concern, with specific suggestions as to how we need to go about it, and we have not had any results to far,” Browne told Barbados TODAY.
Asked how much the ‘sick buildings’ was costing Government, the head of the professional engineering body estimated the price tag to be “hundreds of millions of dollars.
“If you were to just look at some of the really outstanding cases. We have a school that has been closed for over a decade for environmental reasons. A whole school. We have Government buildings . . . we have the court. What has been the cost of the court not having the court [open] for the last couple months . . . the loss of business . . . I mean, it is an extremely high cost. We have not done a professional survey, but just off the hand estimates tell you we are talking very large figures in terms of cost,” he added.
Browne also said that all of the Government buildings which are now closed should be reopened once the technical and environmental provisions of the building code are followed. He pointed to the closure of the old National Insurance Building on Fairchild Street, opened in 1975, as a major loss of business.