ON Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th November 2020, the “Improved Construction Practices for homes” workshop took place virtually and in person to a small group at the Finance Administrative Centre.
The event was organised by the Institute of Architects St. Lucia (SLIA) in collaboration with the Department of Physical Planning. Funding and training for the two-day workshop were provided by the Caribbean Development Bank through their “Train the Trainers” initiative.
Although the workshop was primarily aimed at small contractors, it still allowed the general public a chance to learn about the correct application of typical construction techniques widely practiced in the region, and also encouraged familiarity and compliance with local building codes.
As natural disasters and the effects of Climate Change both continue to be a concern for Caribbean islands like Saint Lucia, the CDB has highlighted the need to guard against severe damage to residential property as well as resulting loss of life. It has become prudent to focus on the construction of such buildings, which generally make up about 80% of building stock in small islands. It was noted that a large percentage of such houses were being constructed by the informal building sector with little to no regulation and supervision. The Workshop reviewed each aspect of the construction journey from the pre-construction preparation to post construction maintenance. Participants were encouraged to voice concerns, ask questions and share their own experiences.
This event seems to have been an eye opener for many and according to Augustin Poyotte, Director of Context Design Inc and retired Chief Architect for Saint Lucia, “It has allowed us to present case studies of catastrophic examples of projects which didn’t meet the minimum requirements thus causing home owners great expense among other things”.
Co-presenter Hildreth Lewis, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Physical Planning for the past 12 years, added “We must continue to collaborate if we want to effect positive change in this industry.”
Both presenters were a part of the Train the Trainers initiative put on by the Caribbean Development bank.
Attendees lauded the efforts of the team and called for the development of courses which would certify persons functioning in the construction industry. They also aired concerns as it relates to the lack of incentives and funding for self-sufficient and climate resilient homes, noting that home owners see no savings in home insurance premiums or bank interest rates after having invested in the “correct” building materials and products.
Event Moderator, Jamal Francis, Director at the Design House Ltd and President of the Saint Lucia Institute of Architects noted the timeliness of the workshop as the Caribbean is now facing unprecedented weather events due in part to Climate Change, which year after year exposes the poor construction practices being used in home construction across the region.
He highlighted SLIA’s commitment to public education and sensitization, and vowed to hold discussions with all stakeholders in order to develop a system of oversight and supervision of home design and construction, and to work with the banks and insurance companies to develop a system of incentives which would encourage home owners to invest in greener and more sustainable homes.
It was pointed out that this in turn would help the Islands of the region to meet their renewable energy and sustainability goals, after citing information coming out of the recent CROSQ virtual conference, which indicated that in some islands, homes and private businesses account for about 60% of energy consumption.
The Institute advised that although the workshop, its first for 2020, was one of the last events allowed before the new COVID-19 restrictions and protocols were introduced on Monday 16th Nov 2020, it will by no means be their last, promising to go fully virtual if necessary in order to continue its drive for more public sensitization and the development of a more informed and demanding clientele.