Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Building code being reviewed; focus on flooding, surges, hurricane force winds

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister pointed out a number of concerns with respect to the existing building code, with respect to flooding, surges and hurricane force winds, stating that the three major design elements of the code “have several shortcomings”. FILE

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister revealed yesterday that the Buildings Control Division has started the review of the current building code’s third edition for a possible revision that would include provisions for climate and environmental changes.

While speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Bannister pointed out a number of concerns with respect to the existing building code, with respect to flooding, surges and hurricane force winds, stating that the three major design elements of the code “have several shortcomings”.

“There are few available records of any known flood levels or storm surges throughout The Bahamas. There is a need to introduce zonal mapping of areas affected by storm surge so as to create no build zones throughout the islands of The Bahamas. Some of us may be concerned about how this development will affect some traditional communities, but in our quest for safety we must choose to protect life first and foremost,” Bannister explained.

“There is also a need to control the construction types in potential surge zones, for example, elevated floors on concrete piles. Also the construction of the main structural frame in timber should be restricted/controlled, as the failures witnessed in Ragged Island recently were partly due to non-compliance to the building codes. In this respect the Ministry of Public Works will either have to expand to every family island, or we shall have to increase the effectiveness of local government in each community.

“There is no reference to flood design in the code. There needs to be additional references for flood design.

“Wind speed is based on wind speed maps for the U.S., with the closest region being the Florida Keys, as there is no wind speed map available for the Bahamas. There is need for the compilation and charting of a wind speed map for the islands of The Bahamas with the assistance of the Bahamas meteorological offices.”

He noted that the mentioned improvements need to be done in conjunction with the Professional Architects Board and Professional Engineers Board.
The proposed revisions will also seek to address certain matters such as sustainability, thermal insulations, renewable energy, coastal design and climate change, according to the minister.

“The Buildings Control Division has now initiated procedures for the review of the current code’s third edition with the view of either a revision or amendments with special emphasis on incorporating two additional components to improve the country’s environmental sustainability, and mitigation against the effects of climate change particularly recurrent damage due to hurricanes; and improved energy efficiency in buildings and renewable energy,” he continued.

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