A Building Solution for Homeowners

The process of building a house for most people in Barbados follows these steps.

1.  The homeowner contacts a draughts-person or architect who prepares drawings and an application for Town Planning approval.

2.  The homeowner presents these drawings to a building contractor who provides them with a price, which if accepted, builds what is on the drawings.

3.  The homeowner occupies the house and is frustrated with the numerous and avoidable maintenance issues.

Most homeowners believe that the drawings approved by the Town Planning office contain sufficient information to allow their builder to build a safe and durable house.  This is not so. The drawings approved by Town Planning contain no guidance to the contractor to build safely.  Worse, most builders do not know how to build safely, and most if not all homeowners are oblivious to the fact that most of them occupy houses that will be unsafe during a major earthquake or hurricane.

I have often wondered what many of the 300,000 who died in Haiti thought as their houses, which they truly believed were well constructed, collapsed around them.  I have visited Haiti several times since the earthquake and have spoken with hundreds of survivors.  I understand that the dead have a different experience, but I can postulate that in addition to the fearful dread of impending harm, there was also a stunning shock and bewilderment about how their house, that cost them so much money to build, could be collapsing so dramatically.

Let me reiterate.  The drawings approved by Town Planning provide no guidance whatsoever to the contractor on how to build a safe house.  The homeowner is essentially placing hundreds of thousands of building materials into the hands of persons who generally do not know how to assemble them safely, despite their best efforts.  I have spent over a decade actively lobbying successive Governments to facilitate the safer building of houses, but there has been little change in the quality of residential construction practices.   So what is the homeowners’ solution when no-one is looking out for them?

I have decided to dedicate the next 5 years of my life certifying the competence of persons who are most likely to be responsible for supervising the construction of houses in the Caribbean.  These would include experienced artisans and construction supervisors/foremen.  The certification will be provided through Walbrent College, a Caribbean training institution for builders that is registered with the Barbados Accreditation Council.

If you decide to allow your contractor to build the typical unsafe and high-maintenance house for you, then you and your household will have to live with the consequences of your decision.  However, if you follow these simple steps then you should be OK.

1.  Ask your contractor for the name of their certified supervisor or foreman.

2.  Visit the Trained Persons section of www.Walbrent.com and check whether the named person is among the approximately 200 persons already trained.

3.  If no certified foreman is directing the construction of your house, then insist that the contractor send the person who is responsible for directing the building of your house to the 10-day certification course, which is offered in the evenings (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm).  The course includes an inspection of your site during a critical building activity.

The benefits to you and future homeowners is that you can avoid the typical frustrating maintenance problems, including: leaking pipes, cracked and blown floor tiles, rising damp in walls, cracked walls, and the premature loss of the roof and walls during natural hazards.

Regards,

Grenville

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6 responses to “A Building Solution for Homeowners

  1. Pingback: One man takes on the cause: Most houses in Barbados unsafe construction | Barbados Free Press

  2. The scoutof the floor

    While I commend you on trying to upgrade the quality and durability of the housing stock in Barbados, I call on government to made the buliding code in this country into LAW ands insist on its useage.
    Most “so-called” contractors/builders in Barbados don’t know how to clean a foundation properly for construction, they don’t know the PSI for concrete for a single storey house against that for a multi-storey house; many don’t know how to measure the PSI in the first case. That’s why I see many houses with structural damage that could have been avoided. Right now, I’m wilnessing a two-storey house being built and the top was poured in the rain with no vibrator, when the boxing was removed, there is “honey-comb” over 75% of the floor, obviously the reinforcement steel will be exposed to weather damage and that can cause massive cracks to appear in the flooring which will without due maintainence result in the house being unsafe. I fear for the housing stock in Barbados if we get even a catagory 1 hurricane hit Barbados, over the years the quality of our housing stock in Barbados has deteriorated and continues to do so.

  3. Scout: I hope that this house was not in St George!!

  4. Environmental Planner - Lani

    Hi Grenville just found this, more power to you for doing this grass roots style! The real question is how do we get an up to date building code legislated that also includes natural hazard and green building measures! I will help you fight the good fight:)

  5. Building is an extremely stressful time – especially if the prospective home owner knows what he / she needs to have going on with the project.

    Arguing with workmen who keep insisting that “man, you ain’t need all ah dat!”… it is a draining experience.

    I have heard so many horror stories – all the government needs to do is run that building course at the polytechnic and make sure that the necessary “contractors” have passed and certified. Simple.

  6. It is never simple in Barbados

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