A leading engineer has called for a national effort to build quality into infrastructure and low-income housing in order to strengthen the nation’s resilience to the extreme weather events associated with climate change.
The head of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) Trevor Browne told a workshop on disaster resilience at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that Barbados must improve infrastructure since storms can affect many sectors in a country.
He suggested there were low-cost options to make low-income houses more hardy, as he responded to Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s comments on the standard of low income housing earlier in the meeting.
Browne replied: “The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers’ position is that given the materials available to us and knowledge of our building professionals, there are multiple building options for low income housing that are both cost-effective and resilient.
“The real issue we face is minimum acceptable standards, which is what we need to establish given global warming trends and its potential threat to our infrastructure.”
Expanding further on the issue of global warming and national readiness for any major climate event, Browne said: “We need a new and critical focus on things like having a hospital that will survive extreme situations, a water system that can be back up and running as soon as possible, and to upgrade our electricity generating system.
“This will involve, among other things, retrofitting our existing stock to make it more resilient.
“More than once in recent years, we have seen countries like the United States that thought they were ready and have the resources available being caught off-guard and having serious challenges after an impact.
“Barbados is a small island, isolated from our neighbours, unable to feed ourselves and to be sustainable in other ways, so we are very vulnerable, hence we must take a more proactive approach to dealing with the issues that are likely to affect us.
“Bear in mind that international agencies do not respond as quickly to natural disasters now as they did 10 or 15 years ago, and our building standards are not enforced by law and have not been for the last 40 years.”
Browne also suggested that in addition to improving low-income housing, the country have to consider “safe houses in some areas that are stronger that can act as shelters”.
He added: “We need secure storehouses for food and other supplies, and professional response teams to guide retrofitting as well as the rebuilding process after an event.
“Our most urgent need is a new culture of proactive, results-driven management, built around quality standards and world class codes.”