Category Archives: Barbados

It Is Time For Christians to Fight Back

General John Kelly of the US Southern Command has reported that about 150 persons left the Caribbean region in 2015 to fight with Islamic State – the Islamic army that is killing Christians wherever they find them. He warned that Islamic terrorists may now choose to carry out terror activities in their home countries.

The mass-beheading videos by Islamic State appear to show Christians unresistingly kneeling before their executioners. Tragically, Christians were taught to submit to this barbarism by their religious leaders. Even after the televised mass-beheadings, Christians continued to be taught to submit to their oppressors while maintaining their faith until the end. Before a similar persecution is upon us, our religious leaders need to honestly discuss an effective Biblical Barbadian response.

Jesus’ Response to an Individual Oppressor

Jesus provided two responses to violence. The first was directed to individuals during their normal interaction with other individuals. Jesus advised His followers to essentially turn the other cheek and not resist such individuals. Paul advised Christians not to retaliate against oppressors since vengeance belongs to the Lord. The Bible teaches that God hears the cries of the oppressed, and that certain terrible judgement awaits the oppressors.

Those who organise the mass killing of Christians depend on the willingness of Christian religious leaders to convince their adherents not to resist the impending slaughter. Such religious leaders conveniently ignore Jesus’ second response to violence as they unwittingly cooperate with the oppressors.

Jesus’ Response to Terrorism

Jesus’ second response was directed to communities vulnerable to terrorism. A few hours before Jesus’ arrest, He instructed His disciples to sell some of their possessions and arm themselves with the latest weapon of war – the sword. The disciples obtained two swords and Jesus said “it is enough” (Luke 22:38), indicating that the armed should protect the unarmed.

And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”  So they said, “Nothing.”

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.  For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

There is no contradiction with Jesus’ responses. While Jesus ministered, He was the lighting rod that attracted criticism and death threats. He preached openly, chased merchants from the temple, and defended His disciples from criticism. However, shortly before He was arrested, and would not be present to protect His disciples, He instructed His disciples to defend themselves (Luke 22:36).

While Jesus was being arrested, His disciples asked whether the time had come for them to attack with the sword. Jesus replied “Permit even this” (Luke 22:51), signifying that the swords were last-resort defensive weapons.

The murder, rape and enslavement of millions of Christians around the world over the past 2,000 years has been facilitated by religious leaders teaching pacifism. Jesus hated religious traditions that violated God’s commandments, and He publically insulted religious leaders who misled gullible adherents. Hear Jesus’ public response to such religious leaders: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt 23:33)

It is better if each person conscientiously arrived at their own response to potential terrorists now, rather than being forced to react immediately during such a foreseen event. While I respect pacifists who have honestly considered all sides of this issue before reaching their conclusion, let it be known that if I am overwhelmed by terrorists, I intend to go down fighting.

Best regards,

Grenville.

Put Your House In Order

Dear Readers:

From my experience in working among people in post-hazard environments, I can conclude that a stable house is the most prized possession. I have witnessed the grateful expressions of relief among those whose houses survived the tragic events.  The contrasting near hopeless expressions of misery among those whose houses were destroyed were almost unbearable.

It was after my first deployment to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, that I finally understood that the primary purpose of an elected Government is to protect, as much as possible, the residents from foreseeable harm. It is for this reason why it is absolutely essential for each Government in the hazard prone Caribbean region to regulate the residential construction building industry in their country.

The Government of Barbados took the first step in trying to protect the public from certain post-hazard misery by publishing the Barbados National Building Code in 1993 [The Fire and the Fire Chief]. That was a commendable achievement because at that time, Barbados was experiencing an economic recession and political turmoil. Fortuitously, the national building standard was in place for the unprecedented building boom that would commence one year later, in 1994

It is a national disgrace that strains the limits of irresponsibility that the Government of Barbados, against all expert advice [The Construction Horror Show], allowed an entirely unregulated 14-year building boom with respect to building standards. Of the thousands of houses built, almost all of them are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. It is to Barbados’ tragic misfortune that it would not have cost any additional money to have constructed the life-saving shear walls that the Building Code specified [Advice for Homeowners].

By 2010, the legacy of substandard residential construction was firmly established in Barbados [Happy Birthday Building Code]. At the start of that year, an earthquake in Haiti had reportedly killed approximately 300,000 people [In Defense of the Haitian Structural Engineer]. Near the end of that year, tropical storm Tomas examined Barbados and damaged over 1,500 houses. Following the visit, our Prime Minister reportedly made the following accurate observation: “I have to confess that I was flabbergasted at the fragility of the housing accommodation in Barbados.” [$37M Tomas Bill, Nation, 13 Nov 2010] He then reportedly recommended that it was “absolutely necessary to impose building standards in Barbados”, before adding the bewildering idea that a building code was “actively under consideration”.  With such ministerial statements, a strong response was eagerly anticipated.

Approximately two years later, around the 20th anniversary of the initial publication of the National Building Code, the Government of Barbados took the strongest possible action unimaginable. Against expert advice, the Government abolished the only national standard designed to help builders construct a house that could survive earthquakes and hurricanes [Good Code Gone Bad].

This act of utter stupidity placed Barbados in the unenviable position of being perhaps the only country on the planet that did not provide some type of structural building guidance to its residents. Even in the poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a homeowner could have found more relevant building standards than in Barbados. It is a national shame to which our apathy only encourages our Government to act more irresponsibly, to depths formerly thought practically unreachable.

It simply does not make any sense! Why would a Government allow an unregulated building boom, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? [Is This Explicit Enough?] Why would a Government, despite acknowledging the fragility of Barbadian houses, then withdraw the only national building standard that could protect Barbadian households, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? Should Barbados experience the inevitable major earthquake tomorrow, then these two actions, in retrospect, would be justifiably deemed unforgivable.

When we stand inconsolably near the rubble of our child’s collapsed school, or when we learn that our loved ones died in the collapsed commercial building, that is not the time to ask how it could have happened. If you have read this far, then you already know how it happened. What you do not know is why, and Barbadians have a right to know, right now! why they are being led to an inevitable destruction.

The Government of Barbados is fully aware of the estimated losses. The United Nations assessed Barbados’ infrastructure in its Global Assessment Report (2013) and placed Barbados in its worst possible damage assessment category for earthquakes and hurricanes, with no upper limit on the amount of damage predicted. Recent seismic studies of Barbados (Salazar et al, 2013) have shown that Barbados is significantly more at risk to major earthquakes than predicted by the UN.

Based on the latest earthquake design parameters (Bozzoni et al, 2011), it can be reasonably assumed that all buildings with reinforced concrete floors in Barbados, that were built before 2011 and not updated to the current design standards, are expected to collapse during a major earthquake, killing most of the people inside. This includes schools, houses and commercial buildings. Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes normally strike without warning.

To reduce the risk of fatalities, Walbrent College has prepared a Home Strengthening Guide to economically strengthen sub-standard houses against earthquakes and hurricanes [Home Strengthening Guide].  It is freely available on the Internet.

Best regards,

Grenville

References

Francesca Bozzoni, Mirko Corigliano, Carlo G. Lai, Walter Salazar, Laura Scandella, Elisa Zuccolo, Joan Latchman, Lloyd Lynch, and Richard Robertson, 2011.  Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment at the Eastern Caribbean Islands.  Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 101, No. 5, pp. 2499 – 2521, October 2011.

Walter Salazar, Lyndon Brown, and Garth Mannette.  Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment for Bridgetown-Barbados, Employing Subduction Interface Characteristic Earthquakes.  Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture.  Volume 7, No. 11 (Serial No. 72), pp. 1405-1422, November 2013.

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Public Notice

Dear Readers:

Due to the charging of individuals for breaching the Computer Misuse Act (section 14) and the Defamation Act, I must reduce the risk of inconvenience by reviewing all future comments for compliance.  You can help by not speaking disparagingly about people.  Please note that all favourable and unfavourable comments will continue to be posted, but any defamatory information will be redacted.

Best regards,

Grenville

Time to Wake Up!

The Government has indicated that a significant amount of the planned $2.5B new debt is to be used to build new infrastructure.  Before spending any of this money on new infrastructure, let me suggest that the Government meaningfully regulate the construction industry.

Having trained over 500 construction personnel around the Caribbean, I can confirm that much of our infrastructure is indeed substandard.  I have spent the past 15 years providing explicit evidence supporting the accurateness of this claim, and while some countries have heeded and improved, Barbados has gone backwards.

The United Nations recently assessed Barbados’ infrastructure and concluded in its Global Assessment Report (2013) that Barbados is expected to suffer probable maximum losses of over 80% of its gross fixed capital formation (buildings, equipment and infrastructure) if we are impacted by a moderate earthquake, or hurricane.  This is the UN’s worst possible assessment category.  For comparison, the UN predicts that neighbouring St Lucia is only expected to suffer probable maximum losses of 10% to 20%.  When will we wake up and realise that we are doing something terribly wrong?

If the Government is determined to put money into new construction, then why not also strengthen what already exists?  The cost to strengthen a house is in the order of 3% of the construction cost of the house.  So we either spend around 3% now, or at least 80% later.  We either go through a major earthquake or hurricane with minimal adverse impact, or we experience the misery of a national catastrophe.  The UN has determined that we are currently on the latter path, but if we are serious, we can change in a few months.

Strengthening properties requires both disposable income and knowledge of how to strengthen.  To address the disposable income issue, the Government can consider giving people a choice of either paying the new municipal solid waste tax, or using that money to strengthen their properties.

To address the knowledge deficit, Walbrent College has developed a Home Strengthening Guide that provides information to economically strengthen a house against earthquakes and hurricanes.  The Guide can be printed and given to a few contractors to complete for pricing.  It is freely available on Walbrent.com (President’s Blog section).

It appears that the dire warnings about the dramatic decline in construction standards in Barbados over the past 15 years was not convincing.  Therefore, let me present the likely scenario in a more dramatic way.

80% of our schools are expected to collapse on 80% of our students and teachers.

80% of our public buildings are expected to collapse on 80% of our politicians and public servants.

80% of our hotels are expected to collapse on 80% of our visitors and hotel employees.

80% of our commercial buildings are expected to collapse on 80% of private sector employers and their employees.

80% of our churches are expected to collapse on 80% of congregants and pastors.

80% of our houses are expected to collapse on 80% of Barbadian families.

Are we awake yet?  Some may consider this to be alarmist.  They should be aware that earthquakes give no warning, and an estimated 316,000 Haitians died unnecessarily under substandard buildings.  This is a necessary alarm.  Wake up!!!

Grenville Phillips II is a chartered structural engineer and President of Walbrent College.

Reference

UN Global Assessment Report (2013), pg 110, Figure 7.4
Can be downloaded free from:
http://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2013/en/home/index.html

Happy Birthday Building Code

This year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Barbados National Building Code (BNBC) for use by designers, building contractors and government regulators.  It has largely been ignored by its intended users.  Yet, it contains critical information necessary to design and build a house that should be safe during natural hazards.  Barbados is very fortunate to have had the BNBC at a time when so many expensive houses were being built.  Tragically, almost every house built during this time has been substandard.  The reasons follow.

For hundreds of years, proper building methods were passed from masters to their apprentices.  The last building boom in Barbados started around 1996.  It was fueled by mortgage institutions offering 95% to 100% to build houses.  This created a high demand for artisans in the residential construction sector.

The master artisans were generally working in the commercial and public sectors where quality control inspections by structural engineers were required by law to protect the public from unsafe buildings.  However, in the residential construction sector, such quality control inspections were not required, resulting in inexperienced and unsupervised artisans receiving masters’ wages for substandard work.

The building boom also provided an opportunity for designers to prematurely leave the employment of their mentors and start their own design practises.  However, while the structural designs of their commercial and public building projects were required by law to be designed by engineers, there was no such requirement for their residential projects.

This breakdown in mentor-ship created the perfect storm for houses to be both designed and built in a manner that left them vulnerable to significant damage during earthquakes and hurricanes, and attracting higher than normal maintenance issues.  A visit to any new (post 1996) housing development in Barbados will likely find no houses built with the critical life-saving shear walls as specified in the BNBC.  A visit to any residential construction site will likely find persons bending steel reinforcement to the point of failure, and then installing this useless material in the house.

To design the safety shear walls, and to bend steel safely, costs the designer, building owner, and contractor no additional money.  So why don’t they do such minimally responsible actions?  Incomplete mentoring results in persons not knowing that they do not know what they ought to know.

To address this knowledge deficiency, Walbrent College trains construction supervisors to build safe and durable houses in the Caribbean.  Any person building in the Caribbean should check Walbrent.com to ensure that their contractor’s foreman is among the approximately 250 persons already trained to build properly.

Good Code Gone Bad

By Grenville Phillips II
June 8, 2012

Yesterday, I attended a seminar hosted by the BNSI and BCSI titled “The Revised National Building Code”. I left the seminar feeling shocked and saddened. The current building code is designed to be understood by building contractors to allow them to build a fairly stable house. Many homeowners should also be able to understand it in order to check that their builder is following this national standard.

In my opinion, the proposed ‘Revised’ code cannot be understood by most builders and homeowners – it appears to be designed to be understood only by designers. Certainly, only structural engineers can understand the Structural section of the “Revised” code, while most builders should be able to understand the structural section in the current code.

In addition, the homeowner will have to provide detailed construction drawings for Government approval. This is likely to increase the cost to the homeowner by approximately 15%. This additional cost is not due to additional construction materials, but the cost of paying designers to prepare the detailed designs.

The current building code contains most of the technical information normally provided by designers (Engineers and Architects). What is so disheartening is that all of this useful information that can be understood by building contractors and many homeowners has been removed.

For the past 2 decades, designers have endured the entirely false charge that the enforcement of national building standards will financially benefit them. What is certain is that if the proposed ‘Revised’ building code is enforced, then the designers will be the principal financial beneficiaries. I am unaware of any designer who has lobbied for this ‘Revised’ code.