Government is assisting thousands of Barbadians living in homes that are not structurally equipped to withstand bad weather during the Atlantic hurricane season.
Minister of Housing Dwight Sutherland made the announcement on Tuesday during the opening ceremony of the 2nd Annual Barbados Construction and Design Conference, which is hosted by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
He said that through the Department of Emergency Management, the Government was rolling out the initiative to help the most vulnerable households better secure their homes in the first instance, and then extend the programme to reach more Barbadians.
“The fact that Barbados is located within the hurricane belt and is furthermore part of a region that falls within an earthquake zone makes it imperative that the country pays greater attention to ensuring that it has a housing stock that is resilient to such natural disasters,” Sutherland said.
The vulnerability of the existing housing stock in Barbados was, however, highlighted during the conduct of an assessment of the housing stock, conducted in 2022 by the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business on behalf of the ministry. The report showed that of the 72 806 houses assessed, only a fifth of the housing stock assessed had roof straps.
“In an effort to improve the structural integrity of homes, my ministry would accordingly have initiated the Operation Strap-It project, aimed at having hurricane straps retrofitted to the roofs of structurally stable houses. This would assist with sufficiently improving the roof, such that it is capable of withstanding storms and low-category hurricanes. A pilot project to install 3 000 hurricane straps is currently being conducted by the Department of Emergency Management. It is the intention of the Government to expand this to 30 000 hurricane straps,” he added.
Sutherland added that the Government had also determined that all state-owned enterprises responsible for providing homes would be required to construct roofs to withstand hurricanes up to category three.
The Operation Strap-It project was first mentioned during a ministerial tour in July 2021, following the passage of Hurricane Elsa. The then Minister of Housing Dr William Duguid said hurricane straps would be offered to help people retrofit their homes.
The theme for the three-day Construction and Design Conference is Building Resilience, Sustainability and Wellness.
The event will highlight the latest trends and technologies used in the field and feature discussions from experts and Government officials on relevant topics impacting the sector. It also provides an opportunity for those in the sector to gain knowledge and earn continuous professional development credits.
During the opening ceremony, keynote speaker Michael McGuire, a lecturer in the Department of Construction and Surveying at the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, spoke about how healthy competition such as the WorldSkills programme helped accelerate the standards in vocational professions.