The Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness in the Bahamas says his ministry plans to introduce building proposals in the upcoming months to “support the view of building for resiliency” in the wake of Hurricane Dorian last year.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, Iram Lewis said an assessment of the devastation Hurricane Dorian left on Abaco and Grand Bahama revealed that some of the damaged homes were in violation of the country’s building codes.
“On several occasions I met with architects, engineers and contractors, in fact several persons from this specialised field comprised a delegation that travelled with me to view the damages on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said.
The Tribune reports: “The results from the professional team’s cursory assessment was rather stunning as the majority of homes destroyed by the wind, revealed extensive breaches and lack of enforcement to building codes.
Mr Lewis said that as the country moves forward, ‘such practices will no longer be “tolerated’.
“Industry practitioners are in support of convening thematic groups sessions to review the building codes with the aim of recommending, where necessary, new approaches to building in conventional areas, and introduce more stringent policies when building in coastal or areas prone to flooding,” he explained.
“I wish to present this House with few examples and provide brief explanation on building proposals that my ministry intends to introduce in the coming months to support the view of building for resiliency and invariably a better Bahamas.”
He also “made mention of a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pledge Conference, where he referenced a presentation made by a local entrepreneur”.
“Mr Carlos Palacious…highlighted the comparison of two homes that were built in close proximity of each other and on the coast of one of the islands that incurred severe damages from Dorian’s strong winds and tidal surge,” he said.
“In the aftermath of the storm, one house was literally destroyed and the other stood firm.
“As an architect and subsequent to close examination of the two homes, I simply concluded that one home owner built his or her home with the mindset that unnatural high tides must not be impeded, but allowed to flow freely, hence this individual built his/her home on stilts — the house remained intact after the passage of Dorian.”
But he said the other homeowner did not consider the “force of the ocean when propelled by intense wind storm”, which caused their house –which was “built on a foundation erected a few feet above ground level”–to be destroyed by Dorian’s storm surge.
The Minister also gave house members examples as well as a brief explanation of the building proposals his ministry intends to introduce to support the idea of an “invariably better Bahamas”.
“The role of the ministry is centered on the institution of policies that takes into consideration best practices and the application of new technology in building for resiliency and invariably a better Bahamas,” he insisted.
“I should note that revising building codes or policies to enhance building practices will only prove effective if there is enforcement.”
With an estimated $3.4bn in losses and damage caused by Hurricane Dorian, the Minister warned there will be a review and more “agressive” enforcement of the building code.
“In reviewing the code and considering the storm surges attached to superstorms, it is likely that recommendations may arise with respect to no-build and restrictive building in areas or zones deemed dangerously susceptible to the worst types of flooding,” he said.
“While reviewing the building code is important, in this circumstance, we must realise that without enforcement of the code, moving forward would be fruitless, hence it is our intention to be more aggressive in enforcement of the code.”
He also said the government “is committed to learning from what transpired in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and to prepare for future storms”.
The home repair programme is for residences in the designated disaster zones.
“The initiative aims to help those in need of resources to restore their homes to liveable standards, giving rise to more economic development and normalcy in the zones,” he explained.
“With some scientists warning that powerful storms could occur more frequently due to climate change, Mr Lewis said governments of small, vulnerable nations must take stringent measures to protect against damage.
““In the era of climate change, Category Five storms are more frequent, and they are especially threats, to economic, social and environmental development of small island nations of the Caribbean region,” he said.
“Based on empirical evidence, it is likely that super storms will continue to intensify, hence it is incumbent upon government and the people of countries that are impacted by these storms to undertake stringent measures deemed necessary to mitigate the destruction of super storms.”