PGDM Structural Vulnerability Assessment

Appropriate building practices (design, construction and maintenance) are a critical determinant of the resilience of the built environment when faced with the stresses imposed by natural hazards. A thorough audit of existing buildings can identify significant vulnerabilities prior to the advent of a hazardous event. To identify retrofit needs and suitability for insurance, structural vulnerability assessments of selected government buildings and buildings used as emergency shelters were carried out in Antigua/Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis, with the support of the PGDM.

In these audits, the design, construction, maintenance status, locational characteristics and damage history of the selected facilities were reviewed. For buildings that have been designated as shelters, additional information was collected, including the building's capacity and availability of required shelter amenities. Based on these audits, the shelters were categorized for use (during a storm or only after a storm) or recommended to be discontinued as designated shelters. Specifically, the following information was collected or assessed:

For all buildings
  • Copies of building plans, where available. 
  • A photograph of the building.
  • Vulnerability of the building site  to natural hazards, including flooding, landslides, storm surge, wind and wind-blown hazards.
  • General building design and construction information, including age, geometry, materials, roof design, foundation type, window type, detailing and damage history.
  • Status of the building connections, maintenance and other characteristics that increase or decrease structural vulnerability.
  • Ability of the structure to withstand wind hazards and earthquake hazards.
  • Alternative methods for retrofitting against both wind and earthquake hazards and describe the most appropriate course of action, with an estimate of retrofit needs and costs.
For facilities identified as emergency shelters:
  • Occupancy capacity and availability of facilities required for proper shelter operation, including the number/location of bathrooms, kitchen, water storage capacity and electrical generation capacity.
  • Recommendations for use in future selection of facilities and for design of new facilities for use as emergency shelters.



In Antigua/Barbuda, 37 facilities were audited. The buildings assessed included twenty school facilities, eight medical facilities and nine governmental offices, varying in age from seven to seventy-two years. The buildings were generally in good shape, however, there is a clear need for general, ongoing maintenance to these facilities. The school buildings are fitted with a combination of window-types to include vent blocks, wooden shutters, awning windows and Miami shutters. The awing windows and vent blocks are generally unprotected. Designated sections of the schools' facilities are used as transitory hurricane shelters. These facilities for most part are not equipped with the necessary amenities and in many cases the sanitary facilities are not accessible during a hurricane. Detailed information on each of these facilities was added to the critical facilities database, which was developed as part of the PGDM hazard mapping and vulnerability assessment activity.

The final report of the Structural Vulnerability Assessment for Selected Government Facilities in Antigua and Barbuda is available in three parts:  

St. Kitts/Nevis

In St. Kitts/Nevis, 94 facilities were audited. The study clearly identified the need for a structured and well-funded approach to regular maintenance of public buildings. The state of disrepair of steel-framed buildings was most noticeable. The most frequently observed vulnerability of the buildings was related to the absence of storm windows to protect the windows. The four buildings surveyed that were designated as emergency shelters were generally found to be either not sufficiently strong or lacking in the necessary facilities to support use as an emergency shelter.

The final report of the Structural Vulnerability Assessment for Selected Government Facilities in St. Kitts and Nevis is available in two parts:  

Pre-PGDM Documents and Reference Information

USAID/OAS Post-Georges Disaster Mitigation:

Page last updated on 14 Sep 2001