Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation

Objective 1 | Objective 2 | Objective 3 | Objective 4

Objective 2: National Building Codes Adopted, and Building Practices Improved

Building Code Strengthening

At the beginning of the Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation project, recently adopted building codes were in place in both Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis. Enactment of a national building code, however, does not guarantee that buildings will be constructed to the specified standards. To strengthen the compliance with and enforcement of building codes in both countries, PGDM reviewed existing administrative mechanisms for code enforcement, provided training to architects and engineers on multi-hazard building design and to building inspectors on permit review and inspection, and met with building and home owners to discuss the benefits and requirements of building to the standards required by the building code. 

Documents: Status of Building Codes in the Caribbean

Administrative Mechanisms for Building Code Implementation

In Antigua/Barbuda, the PGDM reviewed existing building inspection and control procedures and commented on draft procedure manuals compiled by the Development Control Authority (DCA). The project assisted the DCA with an internal staff training program, held in October 2000, by providing facilitators and instructors. The purpose of the training program was to strengthen the capacity of the staff to undertake development review and inspection activities. Topics covered included the legal context for land use planning and development control in Antigua/Barbuda, a discussion of the mission and vision of the agency, administrative procedures for application review and a review of the Antigua/Barbuda building code and guidelines. The final report from this workshop is available on the Building Inspector Training Course Materials page.

In St. Kitts/Nevis, PGDM reviewed the status of the existing mechanisms for code administration. The findings of this review included the fact that the government has an insufficient number of building inspectors for its needs and that a new building board needs to be established (as specified in the Development Control and Planning Act of 2000). Also, although the St. Kitts/Nevis building code had been gazetted by the beginning of the project, the document had not been made available for public use. The document was printed and made available in January 2001. PGDM worked with the Government to complete the printing of this document in time for use with PGDM building code strengthening activities.

Multi-hazard Building Design

The PGDM sponsored a five-day course on Multi-hazard Building Design at the Ocean Terrace Inn in St. Kitts during the week of 13 November 2000. This course was developed and conducted for the PGDM by the Council of Caribbean Engineering Organizations (CCEO). The objectives of the course were twofold:

Sixteen public- and private-sector engineers participated in the full week-long course. PGDM sponsored the participation in this course of Public Works Directors and Engineers from Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis, as well as two participants from the Engineering Faculty of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Private sector engineers from the project countries participated in the course free of charge. 

Documents: Multi-hazard Building Design Course page

Building Inspection Training

Proper enforcement of a building code not only strengthens compliance with the code, but also can provide opportunities for educating owners, developers and builders about safe and hazard-resistant construction techniques. To support enforcement of the existing building codes, PGDM conducted a two-week training course for building inspectors from Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis. The objective of the building inspector training course was to provide public- and private-sector building inspectors with the expertise necessary to review buildings under construction for compliance with adopted codes. 

The course began with a 4-day introductory session for inspectors from local banks, insurance companies and interested agencies, in addition to the building inspectors from the Development Control Authorities. The remainder of the course was primarily for government building inspectors and incorporated significant fieldwork. Over 25 individuals participated in this training course. The training course was quite well received. A series of recommendations for further strengthening the building inspectorate are included in the final report for this workshop. Highlights of these recommendations include:

Further details on the training course, resulting recommendations and training materials used during the course are included in the final report on this activity.

Documents: Building Inspector Training Course Overview

Building Code Sensitization

During March 2001, the PGDM organized discussion meetings with home owners and home builders in St. John's and Liberta (Antigua); Basseterre, Cayon and Sandy Point (St. Kitts) and Charlestown and Gingerland (Nevis). The purpose of the meetings was to discuss with participants the problems of building a small house to be resistant to the natural hazards of hurricanes and moderate earthquakes which affect the islands, and to develop simple and effective ways of engaging persons to design the house and then to engage builders to construct the house. The intention was to provide the potential home owner with the information which would lead to appropriate decisions with respect to the resistance of the building to the natural hazards and importantly on the proposed cost of the building before signing a contract with the builders. The meetings were designed to provide this information in an interactive manner with the participants being involved in the decisions for building their house. The workshop presentations focused on the Buildings Guidelines, the use of which is mandatory. The processes for seeking building approval from the relevant Ministry and Development Control Authority were also discussed. 

Meetings were also held with members of the building fraternities in Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis to discuss strengthening of the use and enforcement of the building code in both countries. A report of these meetings was produced.

Documents: Building Code Sensitization Meetings page

Roundtables on Hazard Mitigation in the Insurance and Banking Sectors

As both the insurance and banking sectors play significant roles in building and development, the PGDM organized a series of roundtables with representatives of the banking and insurance industries in Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis regarding private-sector approaches to supporting more resilient building practices. This roundtable series builds off hazard mitigation initiatives in the insurance sector that were begun under the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project.

The first of the two roundtables was held in Antigua on 18 January 2001; the second meeting was held in St. Kitts on 4 April 2001. All insurance companies and retail banking establishments currently active in Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis were invited to participate and both meetings included participants from both countries. There were 31 representatives from the banking and insurance sectors at the first roundtable and 22 at the second. 

Four primary approaches and mechanisms for more fully integrating hazard mitigation into the operations of these sectors were identified and discussed in detail:

  1. Establish effective cooperation between bankers/insurers/construction professionals and trades people.
  2. Achieve effective dissemination, application, and enforcement of building codes
  3. Upgrade public awareness on vulnerability reduction cost/benefits, methods and procedures.
  4. [From the banking sector] Reduce reliance on the existing insurance mechanism (due to high and inflexible costs). Focus on better building standards and new group insurance mechanisms.

The results of these discussions are available in the final report for the roundtable series. One additional outcome of this roundtable series was that the professional organizations for both the banking and insurance sectors in Antigua/Barbuda and the banking sector in St. Kitts/Nevis have reactivated their organizations.

Documents: Hazard Mitigation in the Insurance and Banking Sectors

Safer Housing

A substantial portion of the housing stock in the Eastern Caribbean is built through the "informal sector" and does not meet official standards. Much of this housing is vulnerable to the impacts of natural hazards. Under the Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project, selected non-governmental National Development Foundations were assisted in establishing Hurricane Resistant Home Improvement Programs. These programs include outreach to homeowners, training of construction artisans, minimum standards for retrofitting, and a revolving loan fund to finance small construction/improvements. In Antigua and Barbuda, the National Development Foundation has been operating the program since early 1999. 

Under the Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation Project, safer housing activities were reviewed in Antigua/Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis and, for comparison, St. Lucia. Under this assessment, the status of the following activities were reviewed in these three countries:

The full findings and recommendations are available in the final report, A Review of the Safer Housing Activities in Antigua/Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis and St. Lucia.

Documents: Hazard-resistant Housing Page

Pre-project Baseline (December 1999)

A national code based on the OECS model code was introduced in Antigua/Barbuda in 1996, following an extensive national consultation. The code is now a legal document and is available for purchase from the office of the Town Planner. Awareness of the code among builders and those who finance construction is still considered insufficient. In St. Kitts/Nevis a code was presented to Parliament in the fall of 1999, without any national consultation. The Act making the building code officially operable is pending parliamentary approval.

Building inspection is ineffective in both countries. CDMP organized in Barbados a three-week training workshop (Sept. 27- Oct. 15, 1999) with participation of 2 inspectors from Antigua. It is generally recognized that building inspection alone cannot ensure compliance with building codes. Effective compliance systems need to include economic incentives and need to involve stakeholders who benefit from safe construction such as insurance companies and mortgage finance companies.

A large portion of the housing stock (around 50%) in both countries is what can be called "informal sector", traditionally built without regard to official standards. Much of this is vulnerable to the impacts of natural hazards. One of the CDMP programs has helped national Development Foundations (NGOs) in establishing Hurricane Resistant Home Improvement Programs. These programs include outreach to homeowners, training of construction artisans, minimum standards for retrofitting, and a revolving loan fund to finance small construction/improvements. In Antigua and Barbuda, the National Development Foundation has been operating the program since early 1999. In St. Kitts and Nevis, CDMP is assisting the Foundation for National Development of St. Kitts and Nevis in starting a similar program, with access to low interest funds from CDB to feed the revolving loan fund.

The existing housing policy in each country does not explicitly address the need to avoid hazard prone areas, nor to set minimum standards that would greatly reduce the impact of disasters. Direct involvement of key stakeholders such as the insurance industry, and the mortgage finance industry is seen as necessary for the adoption by the governments of forward looking housing policies and for effective compliance with building and development regulations.

Expected outcomes (December 1999)

  1. A national building code is adopted and effectively implemented.
  2. A public awareness and training program has been completed.
  3. Mechanisms are in place to ensure private sector commitment to building code compliance and safe construction.
  4. Sustainable Hurricane Resistant Home Improvement programs are operating in each country.

Pre-PGDM Documents and Reference Information

USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation:

Page last updated on 18 Sep 2001