Recently, The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) have been in the news often. It seems that Barbados has allocated millions of dollars to educating our people only to ignore their free advice when become qualified. It is well documented that BAPE has expressed concerns about the Operation Free Flow Project better known as the flyovers only to be told SHUT-UP by Minister Gline Clarke. We have written extensively about BAPE and the flyover project. If we were engineers we would feel slighted by all that has happened. Although BAPE has been described as a spineless association by the DLP at a recent political meeting, we have to shower them (BAPE) with praise for sticking to their guns regarding the need for government and 3S Barbados to clarify some technical issues related to the flyover project.
The latest concerns that BAPE has highlighted relate to the need for Barbados to implement the much touted building code. Based on our research there is a draft building code dating back to the early nineties. Although some of our responsible engineers, contractors, architects and other professionals follow the code they are not obligated to do so. (Again, we have written several articles about this issue.) BAPE is reporting that one month after the unfortunate Britton’s Hill tragedy where part of an apartment building collapsed into a cave, a new draft building code was circulated among the relevant professionals for discussion and feedback. In a nutshell if the new building code is proclaimed into law “it would mean that all building plans and alterations, including relatively minor ones, would have to be submitted to a new authority to verify conformity with the code, causing at least six weeks delay and additional cost in obtaining approvals.” BAPE is of the view that although there is a need for a building code/authority, the current proposal will create a large and inefficient bureaucracy.
Here is what BAPE has proposed:
Instead, the engineers want to see certified inspectors from the private sector providing independent verification of compliance with building standards. Under this regime, a new building authority would register and monitor the inspectors, resolve disputes, conduct random inspections and validate completion certificates. The engineers association gave as models the Australian performance-based building code system with ‘deemed to satisfy’ provisions based on certificates of accreditation from qualified people. There are similar arrangements in the United Kingdom and Singapore. Both are based on the concept of an approved inspectors’ building control service. It seems however that the government is determined to push on with a Bill for the new standards authority, so the issue may be thrashed out in the Barbados Parliament.
What is it about BAPE that make people just want to say to them, SHUT-UP! For whatever reason, BAPE, which is comprised of our finest engineers, have not been able to command any respect from successive governments which used taxpayers’ dollars to educate them. It seems ridiculous that on an island which is in an everlasting building boom that any government would not want to ensure that there is a system in place which enforces adequate building standards in an efficient manner. If Barbados is committed to moving the country forward on a first world footing, it must recognize that it must create a climate which is easy for all to do business. Implementing new ideas using old business models seems silly. Why don’t they listen to BAPE? Is there something that we are missing?
By circulating the new draft building code to members of BAPE there is an implied understanding that feedback is expected from them. The fact that the authority continues to ignore BAPE’s feedback suggests that the government is engaged in a token exercise. We support BAPE in their willingness to speak-out under the leadership of Roger Blackman. We call on other players in other areas of our society to do the same.