While explaining the unplanned expenditure of $37M to address the damage caused by tropical storm Tomas, Prime Minister Stuart made the following observation:
“I have to confess that I was flabbergasted at the fragility of the housing accommodation in Barbados.”
The Prime Minister then reportedly stated that a Building Code was “actively under consideration”.
I promised that I would no longer describe the general sub-standard nature of the residential construction industry in Barbados. However, I have a new strategy while I patiently await the actively considered Building Code.
Properly Train Construction Supervisors
Construction supervisors (including foremen), are critical to safe buildings since they are responsible for directing good or poor quality construction practices. Foremen directing the construction of houses have little to guide them, since there is very little structural information on the house plans that they are normally provided. Therefore, they must guess at the sizes of footings, beams, columns, slabs, and rafters. They must also guess at the amount of steel reinforcement in concrete elements.
Typically, the preparation of, connections between, and bracing of structural elements is inadequate. This results in two types of defects, those which can lead to the partial or complete collapse of a structural member, and those which can result in higher than normal maintenance requirements. It should be noted that the cost to build an unsafe house that attracts high maintenance activities is similar to the cost of a safe and durable house. The amount of materials does not change, but their preparation, connections, and bracing differs significantly.
A Course for Construction Supervisors
Five years ago, I developed a course for construction supervisors to address the vulnerability of houses in the Caribbean to natural hazards. This course has been taught around the Caribbean region. I have now accepted the post of senior lecturer at Walbrent College, where I plan to teach the course in Barbados.
The six week course for construction supervisors is open to anyone with at least 5 years of construction site experience. Graduates who successfully complete the other core courses of ‘Estimating Labour and Materials Resources’, and ‘Managing Building Contracts’, will receive the Diploma of Walbrent College.
Courses are scheduled to be held after normal construction working hours, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. The next course is scheduled to start on Tuesday, 1st February 2011. Please contact Walbrent College at e-mail: Admin@Walbrent.com for registration information. You can also get further details at www.Walbrent.com
The College is very accommodating to all prospective students, and a wide range of tuition payment options are available.
Who should attend?
- If you already direct construction activities and you wish to fill in any critical gaps of knowledge, then please come.
- If you want to learn how to properly direct construction activities, and you have at least 5 years of site experience, then please come.
- If you are building a house, and you want your foreman trained before he proceeds too far, then please send him/her.
- If you have a construction company and you want to have your supervisors well trained, then please send them.
- If you plan to build your house, and you do not want to be bamboozled by an unscrupulous contractor, then you may attend and receive a Certificate of Participation, rather than the Certificate of Competence.
The course will be taught using adult learning principles. At the end of the course, supervising the safe and economical construction of durable structures should become second nature to the participants. The ultimate beneficiaries of the College are the occupants of structures built under the supervision of its graduates.
Grenville Phillips II BSc, BEng, MASc, MURP, CEng, FIStructE, FCIHT, MAPM, MCSCE, MBAPE
Fellow, Institution of Structural Engineers