Status of Building Codes in the Caribbean
(as of August 2001)

Prepared in March 1999 and updated in August 2001 by Alwyn Wason

The building regulatory system plays an important role in ensuring the quality of the built environment. Common components of the regulatory system are building codes, land use zoning and development plans, and an inspection mechanism to enforce adherence to the code and plans. Enforcement is generally the weakest part of the system, often due to lack of human and financial resources allocated to this function and political interference with the regulatory system.

Building Codes are standards and guidelines for construction of buildings to ensure a minimum level of safety for the occupants. An appropriate building code incorporates a thorough understanding of the forces that natural hazards impose on the area governed by the code. The Caribbean Uniform Building Code (CUBiC) was developed to provide appropriate building standards for the Caribbean region. In the Eastern Caribbean, a model building code, based on CUBiC, has been developed by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to facilitate the introduction of national codes. 

The status and legality of building codes in the Caribbean has caused some confusion, mainly because the existing building and planning regulations never mentioned the use of building codes as such. The emphasis on the legislation has generally been to safeguard health and property by proper planning and spatial requirements. In some States, notably Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Anguilla, there is an attempt to incorporate Building Codes into existing planning or building legislation. 

In the legal system used in most of the OECS States, the Building Code has been introduced into existing national legislation as a schedule of the Building or Planning Regulations. This allows the Code to be amended easily and approved by the Minister without the requirement of parliamentary approval. There should be no constitutional problem with mandating the use of Codes. The constitutions of all of the States are similar and give parliament the authority to pass laws controlling development in the State. But to change the building culture of any country takes a long time. The problems with residential buildings erected near the cliffs or on hill tops or in flood plains can only be solved if the people wish to accept the solutions offered. It does take a long time to change the pattern of building, but experience in Anguilla and in the TCI shows that it is sometimes easier to change cultures in small places than in big places. Jamaica for instance has had a building code - the Jamaica National Building Code - drafted and distributed for comment in 1984. Nothing has come of this as the use of the Code was not legislated, and another effort has been made since  to develop a new Code.

Antigua/Barbuda. Antigua has passed legislation mandating the use of the Antigua Building Code for all building in Antigua and Barbuda as regulations to the Development Control Ordinance. Current problems with use of the Code in Antigua and Barbuda have to do primarily with the apparent non-availability of documents and the lack of trained building inspectors and not with the legislation itself. [Note: The Antigua/Barbuda Building Code and Guidelines are available at the Government Printery, but this does not appear to be widely known.] As in many jurisdictions, the legislation has caught the regulating body (the Development Control Authority) unprepared. This is a "hiccup", but the law is firmly on the books and gazetted. The documents are available for purchase at the Government Printery at a cost of EC$ 348.00. The OAS/PGDM project has recently (2001) supplied twenty five copies of the Code and Guidelines for use by the regulatory bodies.

Anguilla. In Anguilla, the existing Building Ordinance was amended in September of 1997 to mandate the use of the Anguilla Building Code and approved by the Executive Council. The present position (August 2001) is that the Government has decided that the building regulations mandating the use of the Building Code should be included in the new physical planning act now under discussion by the Attorney General and the Ministries responsible.

Barbados. The Code has been drafted (1992) and accepted by the Government. The administrative requirements for the establishment of a Building Authority have been developed with the assistance of the USAID/OAS Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project. The current position is that the passing of the necessary enabling legislation to mandate the use of the Code and to set up a properly staffed regulatory body is under discussion.

Dominica. Dominica is drafting legislation to include the Code in the Development Control Regulations. The legislation will be based on the model Physical Planning legislation prepared for the OECS with the assistance of the UNDP/UNCHS.

Turks and Caicos Islands. In the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) the TCI Building Code was included in the building regulations of 1990 and has been in use for the last 11 years. The building fraternity has found no major problems with the use of the Code. Copies of the Code and Guidelines are printed by the Department of Planning and sold to developers and the building fraternity.

It is important to know that the Codes that have been drafted for the various States are (with the exception of the St. Kitts and Nevis Code) based on the technical requirements of CUBiC. In fact, certain parts of the OECS Codes such as wind and earthquake loads simply refer to CUBiC as the principal reference. The Codes however contain administrative requirements that are specific to particular States.

Table: Summary of Building Code Status

Country

Code Status

Code Availability

Building Inspection Capacity

Anguilla

Anguilla Building Code completed. Anguilla Building Ordinance mandates the use of the Anguilla Building Code. Building Code being used administratively.

Building regulations mandating the use of the Code will be incorporated into the new Physical Planning Ordinance (administered by the Department of Physical Planning). The Attorney Generalís office is now discussing the draft legislation with the Public Works and the Physical Planning Departments.

Hardcopy can be purchased from the Government of Anguilla.

About 50 copies of the Code have been sold to the building fraternity and to developers.

Electronic version available.

Being developed. Building inspectors being trained

At present the Public Works Department employs a Building Inspector

Antigua and Barbuda

Completed, based on OECS model building code. Legislated in 1996 as regulations under the Development Control Ordinance.

Hardcopy can be purchased from the Government Printery

5 Building inspectors on staff.

Training program to be developed.

Bahamas

Code was in operation from the mid 1970's. The Code was based generally on the South Florida Building Code

Copies available from the Ministry of Works, Nassau, Bahamas  

Building inspectors in place in adequate numbers and training. 

Barbados

Draft Building Code developed in 1993. The Government proceeding with the establishment of a Building Authority and the appointment of Building Inspectors. Technical provisions of the Code based on the standards contained in CUBiC

Detailed recommendations for establishing the Building Authority and other mechanisms required for legislative review completed in 1999 with the assistance of the OAS/CDMP.

The working papers for the enabling legislation and for the establishment of the Building Authority now being discussed with the Minister responsible prior to submission to Cabinet.

Copies of the Code available for the Barbados National Standards Institute 

Recommendations made for the engagement of an adequate number of building inspectors for monitoring residential construction. Other buildings will be monitored by professional engineers and architects engaged on a case by case basis.  

Belize

Belize City Building Code in place from 1963. Belmopan has building and planning regulations. There is no national building code.

Draft of technical standards for Belize building construction and a residential construction guide have been completed by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the assistance of OAS/CDMP.

Documents completed in December 1999 and being reviewed for legislative approval by the Attorney Generalís office.

Copies of the National Building Code when completed will be available from the Government of Belize.

Electronic versions will be available. 

The Ministry of Housing and the Reconstruction and Development Corp. in Belmopan have building inspectors.

Consideration has been given to the nature of inspection desired and to the number of building inspectors required and training requirements.

Dominica

Code drafted, based on OECS model building code. Submitted for legislative review. OECS Model Planning Act being used as the basis of a new Dominica Physical Planning Act which will mandate the use of the Building Code.

Copies will be available from the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica.

The Development Control Authority has 5 building inspectors of staff.  

Grenada

Currently drafting code, based on OECS model building code.

Completed. Hard and electronic copies will be available from the Government of Grenada.

No information available 

Jamaica

Jamaica National Building code drafted and distributed for comment in 1984 -- not adopted. A revised Code has been drafted and is being discussed.

There are building by-laws in each of the Parishes and in Kingston-St. Andrew.

Code being reviewed. The Government has appointed a facilitator to move the project along to the legislative stages  

There are building inspectors in each Parish with training in building and in construction. The staffing in some Parishes will have to be augmented to ensure that building plans can be properly reviewed in accordance with the requirements of the new Code.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Building code approved by Parliament and mandated for use by the Development Control and Planning Bill which was gazetted in 2000.

The building regulations include the Building Code and Building Guidelines as the second and third schedules.

The Code and Guidelines have been compiled in one book. This is available at the Government printery for EC.$ 300.00.

Four building inspectors are in place in St. Kitts and one in Nevis. 

St. Lucia

Code drafted and accepted by the Development Control Authority. Code is based on OECS model building code.

Physical Planning Bill drafted and forwarded for legislative approval. This Bill will mandate the use of the Code and Guidelines.

Copies of the Code and Building Guidelines have been made available to the Government by the OAS/CDMP project.

Electronic versions will also be available. 

There are twelve building inspectors in the employ of the Development Control Authority. The inspectors are engaged mainly in monitoring residential construction.

Trinidad and Tobago

The Trinidad and Tobago Building Code has been drafted and is submitted for comments by the building fraternity. The enabling legislation has been submitted for legislative approval.

Small building code being drafted based on Chapter V of CUBiC. A draft is available at www.boett.org

For engineered buildings British, American and Canadian codes are used as standards.

Hardcopies and electronic versions will be available from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago upon completion.

Special committee mandated to prepare building regulations for legislative review.

Turks and Caicos Islands

TCI Building Code included in the building regulations of 1990. Code in regular use in the islands since 1991.

The technical requirements of the Code are based generally on CUBiC.

Revisions to the administrative sections of the Code are carried out by the Department of Planning and members of the building fraternity of TCI.

Hard copies are available from the Department of Planning 

Electronic versions will also be available.

There are three building inspectors and one building control engineer on the staff of the Department of Planning. Monitoring of construction of large buildings such as hotels and condominiums is generally carried out by engineers and architects engaged as Special Inspectors.


USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation: http://www.oas.org/pgdm

Page last updated on 07 Nov 2002