The Government of Barbados wisely invested in upgrading the Harrison Point facility, in response to the COVID-19 threat. The derelict buildings have become a functional medical facility. Well done.
Since we are in a hurricane and earthquake prone region, it is important that opportunities to upgrade buildings, are not limited to functional uses only. They should also be upgraded to survive expected hurricanes and earthquakes.
Since the publication of our National Building Code in 1993, buildings in Barbados were supposed to be built to survive Category 2 hurricanes. However, with three Category 5 hurricanes devastating some of our Caribbean neighbours, over the past three years, new construction should be built to Category 5.
The normal response to this recommendation was to assert that it is prohibitively expensive. However, it is unlikely that those who made that assertion, actually looked at both costs. The truth is, it is not prohibitively expensive.
Our Caribbean neighbours’ tragic experiences with hurricane damage is instructive. It is extremely costly to rebuild after experiencing catastrophic damage. Foreign investors in hotels, businesses, and other properties, may choose to keep insurance payments, and not rebuild, or delay rebuilding in Barbados.
For the past 30 years, the ‘prohibitively expensive’ assumption was accepted as fact. With the Government planning to oversee the spending of approximately $2B of stimulus money, we can no longer afford to do so. It is time to compare both costs – before any of the stimulus money is spent.
Most developers may be surprised at the comparatively minor additional cost, and regret not building Category 5 buildings before. However, others may decide to maximise profits, by constructing the worst building that our Building Code will allow.
It is in Barbados’ best interests for all buildings to remain functional after a major hurricane and earthquake. This will allow business activity to resume with minimal disruption. The Government can easily facilitate this new building standard, by making it more profitable for developers to do so.
Solutions Barbados recommends that VAT on construction materials be waived, for all developments that are built to withstand major earthquakes, and Category 5 hurricanes.