BVI News

Law coming to govern architects and engineers

The Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre in Road Town is among the structures severely damaged after the September 2017 hurricanes. (Photo Credit: BVI News)

Government will be introducing a new law to govern architects and engineers practising in the British Virgin Islands.

Governor Augustus Jaspert said the law should be brought before the House of Assembly sometime this year.

“As we build stronger and smarter, now more than ever, an active construction industry is important to us. That is why our Government will seek to introduce the Architects and Engineers Registration Bill to ensure that all practicing architects and professional engineers provide services to private and public sectors at an acceptable industry standard, which in turn would ensure the optimum health and safety of building occupants,” Governor Jaspert said while delivering the Speech from the Throne recently.

He also said physical planning regulations will be introduced to “enhance and strengthen the enforcement and effectiveness of the Physical Planning Act, 2004.”

He said regulations are being introduced to align local design and building practices with international standards.

The Architects and Engineers Registration Bill is being introduced to complement a revised building code for the territory.

Fresh building laws and regulations are also being implemented in light of last year’s hurricanes, which damaged roughly 80 percent of local homes and business structures.

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  1. Sam the man says:

    What are the building standards that the BVI are hoping to ensure adherence to? Most countries have codes and standards that need to be adhered to…my experience of the BVI is that they just don’t care – just think how many schools and government buildings were demolished because they had been poorly constructed – the exception seems to be the hospital – that was designed by a competent American architectural firm that I understand incorporated hurricane and earthquake proof American codes… After all the Government had to relocate to the hospital after Irma as it was the only available space! The roads and drainage systems are just thrown together and poorly constructed – 6 months on I’d expect the Government to have acted on this ages ago

    • Excuse Me? says:

      Excuse me? What are you saying? Half of the U.S. East Coast, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico was destroyed by the same Irma – and their infrastructure was designed to U.S. Codes.

      Also, there were many buildings designed and built by Locals which withstood the hurricane. To name one, Francis Lettsome Primary was not destroyed. That was designed by a local architect and local engineer. Built by a local contractor.

      The Digicel towers which stood up were designed by the same local engineer who designed the Francis Lettsome School.

      The problem is not the Codes, but that the US, UK and EU Codes don’t account for the wind speed-up between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. The design professionals need to take the information from the US Code and multiply it by a factor given by the University of West Indies to get the right wind speed.

      The bigger problems have nothing to do with Codes or design professionals. Its that no one wants to pay for qualified design professionals. They want draftsmen to “draw plan”. And finally, every Tom, Dick and Harry calls himself a Contractor. People simply and ignorantly build what they want, how they want.

      The latest thing is “concrete roof”. Well, Stupid, concrete roofs may be good for hurricanes, but they are the worst thing for earthquakes.

      Every does what they want and no one wants to pay professionals to design and build. And the BVI is the worst place for this because it is located in a high earthquake zone, in a known hurricane path, plus you either build on steep hillsides or flat reclaimed land. Those are the worst conditions ever and yet people still want draftsmen to design and their cousins to build.

      We got the 100-year storm. Still waiting for the 100-year earthquake. See home many top-heavy concrete roof houses are standing after that.

      • Sam the man says:

        You are naive – just because there are codes doesn’t mean that the contractors follow them … Nobody on BVI seems to care how things are properly built hence the scale of the destruction today…and the “No Direction Party” just sits back idly by as usual half asleep ..

      • E. Leonard says:

        @ Excuse Me, you are making some important points. Yes, the VI, along with its sister regional countries, lie in a disaster prone area; it is highly vulnerable to hurricanes, earth quakes…….etc. It is not if but when it will be hit by either a catastrophic hurricane (Cat 4 &5) or earthquake. As such, buildings should be designed, constructed and maintained to mitigate the potential damages from hurricanes and earthquakes; it is important to note that buildings are not immune to all damages from these natural disasters.

        To mitigate the damages from hurricanes and earthquakes and for public health and safety, buildings should be designed by personnel (architect and engineers) with the training, education, experience and license. It is important to note that draftsmen are neither architects nor engineers; they work under the direction of engineers and architects; they draw up the plans for the designs conceptualized by engineers and architects.

        All projects should be sealed by a currently licensed engineer or architect. Engineers must follow all standards, codes, regulations, practices……..etc. A board ensures that engineers and architects perform work/services consistent with their licenses. They must always operate for the public good and be held accountable and liable for their work.

        Moreover, if engineers and architects are responsible for designing safety buildings/facilities, they should produce safe, secure and high quality work at a reasonable cost. What is a reasonable cost: all reasonable cost incurred + reasonable profit.

        Ok. A well-designed but poorly constructed building poses a safety risk to the public, ill-serves customers, tarnishes the image of contracting community……..etc. May be it is time to start licensing contractors; training, education, knowledge, experience………etc should factors in licensing. Furthermore, all construction projects should be inspected by certified and qualified inspectors.

        Further, building to fully withstand catastrophic hurricanes (Cat 4&5) and earthquakes may not be affordable for most home owners. Suggest a minimum Cat 3 (111-129 miles per hour wind speed). At this minimum criteria, owners must get value for money.

        Most property owners may gamble with the less frequent storms (Cat 4&5). CMU (blocks) is a common construction material. However, unreinforced blocks presents a high risk for damages from hurricanes and earthquakes, especially earthquakes. For at least minimum earthquake protection, the roof, walls, foundation……etc must be tied strongly together to mitigate lateral forces from earthquakes.

  2. Watcher says:

    Increase in construction costs in 3. 2..1

  3. Isee says:

    Please do it before a year

  4. Island says:

    Another dog and pony show.

  5. Diplomat says:

    Everything is coming this year! Consumer protection, freedom of information………..etc coming this year. Why can’t government give a specific date/month when these pieces of vital and long over due legislation will be brought to HOA for discussion? What is the tall pole in the tent? Residents need to demand that these vital legislations are brought to the HOA soonest. Additionally, legislators need to confirm with the law and submit a listing of assets, holdings and interests. Will we quicker see green mules flying?

    The architect and engineer registration requirements are long overdue. It is about public health and safety. Every Joe, Jane or Abdul can’t just show up and deem themselves as an engineer or architect and start designing sh…..t. They need to have the verifiable training, education and experience. Architect and engineer board established, strong implementation and administration is critical. By the way, draftsman or woman are not engineer or architect. Hurricanes Irma and Maria exposed some critical weaknesses in the design, construction, and maintenance in the built environment. Particularly, there are weaknesses in the roofing structures, though Irmaria were once in a lifetime hurricanes. In addition to the roofing systems, there are observable weaknesses in the openings (doors and openings).

    Here is a news flash. Doors and windows need to be protected during a hurricane. Wind penetrating the interior of a building results in increasing pressure and roof lift off. It is an olde tail that leaving a window open on the leeward side of building equalize internal and external pressures. The pressures are relatively equalized before the storm hits. No building is not that air tight. Cover windows and doors to maximize protection. 5/8 or larger plywood , impact glass ……..etc are options.

    • Diplomat says:

      This is an addition to the above. Who will the BVI have reciprocity with? I would say the UK for sure, probably the USVI……….etc. Will the HLSCC be offering annual continuing education training opportunities for engineering and architecture licensees or will the training be imported? Will a test be administered or license be granted based solely on training, education and experience?

  6. watcher says:

    When are the laws to control the scooter gang nuisance coming? Noise nuisance laws, helmet enforcement, licensing?

  7. Unconvenient truth says:

    Will the roads get the same standard?

    • Diplomat says:

      There are already standards for roads; the process and typical cross section(s) for roads are already being employed by developed countries that have invested in the research, development, testing and evaluation. They have done the work for us on different road classifications, ie, arterial, collector, local…….etc. The standards can be easily adopted/adapted; the BVI chose not to adopt them. The BVI spend more per mile for road construction than locales of similar size but gets less for its investment.

      A typical road lifecycle is 10-15 years with proper maintenance; BVI, 0.5-1 year. Prior to Hurricane Irmaria, the BVI borrowed $16M for road construction; approx 13M was expended. And what the BVI has to show for it? Some may use Hurricane Irmaria as an excuse. Nonsense, for the supposedly recently constructed roads were failing prematurely long before Hurricane Irmaria hit. Money dun, roads mash up and residents has the loan to pay back. What is needed to improve road construction?

      Better design, construction and maintenance. Close attention needs to be paid to drainage; poor drainage is a primary cause of premature road failure. Additionally, some structural changes are needed at the PWD. Are residents getting value for money?

      • See yah! says:

        All brilliant points; however you missed the critical point – politricks! Look at the past ten directors of PWD, the Ministers of MCW and tell me there is no direct correlation to the abject failures of both entities. Are we so blind to see that square pegs are occupying round holes in some instances for multiple governments? We’ve had imports and locals occupying the top spots in our utilities and infrastructure organizations and what grade would we honestly give them? Something must change soon if all he’ll will break loose. Businesses are already strained and relief is nowhere, citizens are feeling the grim reality that the new BVI is here and the bubble has burst.

      • Wait Wait says:

        @Diplomat Thanks for the sickening reminder about that borrowed and wasted 16 million for roads. And people wonder why UK wants over site on the nearly 1 billion are lending the BVI?

      • Wait Wait says:

        @Diplomat Thanks for the sickening reminder about that borrowed and wasted 16 million for roads. And people wonder why UK wants over site on the nearly 1 billion they are lending the BVI?

  8. Bvi says:

    And marijuana laws. Do not forget. We want our herb. Priority.

  9. It’s time says:

    It is true that the magnitude of Irma hardly anyone was immuned, however she unearthed a lot of the poor construction that was done to a lot of buildings.

  10. VOLDAREN says:

    need to update law to govern politicians and their cronies

  11. Back to Basics says:

    This is only showing how small issues in our community cause a domino effect of issues. Instead of making more higher education available, we have been sending our people away at a hefty price. How much does it really cost to hire bachelor level instructors for architects to get licenses? Yet sending our youth on loans is the answer? We say we want better things but we are not equipping our youth with the tools needed to make better things happen. You cannot build backwards. Many of our people dont have the education needed, yet we have job roles needed to fill…. and these companies not paying them enough as a result. Low paying jobs, uneducated unprofessional standards…. it’s a wonder why we not satisfied in every department.

  12. Ausar says:

    Thank you governor!

    They should all be accredited by the agencies in the British Isles!

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