Wanted: Robust, enforced building codes

Wanted: Robust, enforced building codes

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

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OVERHAULING Jamaica's energy use profile as a singular measure against the effects of climate change won't be enough to protect the island from the related hazards such as rising sea levels, increased air temperature and more intense storms and hurricanes.

The effort, says Brian Bernal of local architecture firm MODE Ltd, has to be coupled with a deliberate move to ensure the building stock can withstand the anticipated shocks. He made the point on Thursday while addressing a workshop hosted by the Jamaica Institute of Architects in association with the Caribbean Architecture Students Association of the University of Technology (UTECH).

"We need to change the way we use energy resources to reduce our CO2 emissions, while simultaneously increasing our ability to resist the effects of climate change," he said.

He pointed out that while small islands with extensive coastlines that feature intensive development will be dramatically affected by climate change-related hazards, critical focus needs to be put on increasing the resilience of the built environment to mitigate the impact on human life and economies.

"Robust and enforced building codes are highly effective in ensuring a better quality of building and when employed in conjunction with 'green' building standards or practices will significantly increase the functional resilience of our buildings," he said, noting that the main objective of building codes is to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupants by providing standards, construction techniques and strategies pertinent to a jurisdiction or region.

There are plans in Jamaica to adopt a National Building Code to reflect technologies that are green and more modern. Minister of Justice Mark Golding has said that a Bill to establish the Building Act and to facilitate the adoption and efficient application of the code — on which work has been ongoing since 2002 — should be tabled in Parliament this year.

Thursday, Bernal said that the adoption and enforcement of the new code, in association with other standards such as the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) and voluntary Green Building Rating Systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), will go a long way in ensuring the design and construction of more climate-resilient buildings in Jamaica.

Bernal's firm is the lead consultant of the multi-disciplinary team for the Build Better Jamaica — Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings project, which is being managed by Professors Anthony Clayton and Tara Dasgupta of the Institute of Sustainable Development at the UWI. The project is sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Institute of Sustainable Development with a view to helping Jamaica and the Caribbean better prepare for climate change, particularly in the design and construction of buildings that are more resilient to disasters, but which do not compromise the natural environment.

Under the project, MODE is reviewing the proposed building codes and investigating the relationship between the codes and climate change as an avenue to promote, encourage and enforce climate change resilient buildings on a national and regional scale.

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