Building Resilience, Building Hope

Participants at the Improved Practices for the Construction of Houses workshop

There is an urgent need to make homes across Caribbean communities impregnable to natural hazards such as earthquakes and hurricanes. When a natural hazard strikes in the Region, too often the housing sector is severely affected, with evidence pointing to poor construction practices. In an effort to defeat this trend, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has embarked on a programme to create a cadre of artisans armed with the tools and knowledge they need to build with resilience and safety in mind.

In the Region, many houses are still constructed by the informal building sector in which small artisans often have limited understanding of Government compliance requirements, where such requirements do exist. It is for this reason that CDB prioritised training for government personnel as the first phase of the programme. The trained public servants will return to their home countries as trainers, who then share the information with local artisans.

The goal of the programme is to help at least 350 people across the Region understand how to build more resiliently. The process got underway in July 2018, with a train-the-trainers workshop on Improved Practices for the Construction of Houses.

Planners and building inspectors from 16 of the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries attended the workshop. Some were from Caribbean countries that are in the process of rebuilding following the catastrophic impact of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Cordel Niles of the Department of Planning in Anguilla said when he learned about the workshop he was relieved “to know that we have support, and to know that there are solutions to aid in building back resilient”.

The sessions incorporated and built upon the construction practices reflected in the Regional Code of Practice, which was developed by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and prepared by the Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, in consultation with relevant professionals and institutions back in 2005.

This Code, however, only makes provisions for the construction of houses that can withstand up to Category 3 hurricanes. So the training was enhanced to include considerations for Category 5 hurricanes. As part of the workshops, participants visited construction sites to observe building more resiliently in action.

“I learned a whole lot of stuff,” said Selena Curry of the Ministry of Works in The Bahamas. “Some things we do but there are a lot of new concepts that I think we can use in our country,” she added.

The participants also had the opportunity to share some of the best practices from their countries, lending to knowledge-sharing and an exchange of lessons learned throughout the workshop.

The workshop was coordinated by CDB’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services Network and was conducted in collaboration with CDEMA and Walbrent College, an accredited building construction training institution in Barbados.