Local Architect’s Defense of OECS Building Code Endorsed By Code Author

Head Architect for the Government of Montserrat took to Facebook last week to defend the construction practices and the building code for the OECS. Linda Dias said the “post was written in anticipation of future backlash on the Codes within the islands, as unfortunately, there was a significant amount of damage throughout 7 of the islands that were impacted by the devastating Hurricane Irma.”

The conversation was further amplified after derogatory statements surfaced from the USA about the “cardboard” homes built in the Caribbean. Dias’ commentary, the “cardboard” comments and feedback from readers resulted in a LoopTT story which has since gone viral.

Architect Linda Dias

Dias wrote: “To be clear, the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma is NOT an indictment on the construction techniques within the Eastern Caribbean. The building codes in the Eastern Caribbean dictate that buildings should be designed to take wind speeds of between 154mph – 180mph, depending on the location and category of building.”

“Each island that the OECS Building Code accounts for that was affected by Hurricane Irma, has buildings that can withstand storms up to the following wind speeds:

Antigua & Barbuda – 168 mph
Anguilla – 176 mph
British Virgin Islands – 180 mph
St. Kitts & Nevis – 170 mph
Montserrat – 172 mph

Irma is an anomaly of a superstorm that hit the islands at 185 mph,” she said.

“To put this into perspective: the frequency of Category 5 hurricanes that make a direct hit on each of the Caribbean islands isn’t on an annual basis. Cat 5’s start at wind speeds of 157 mph. A hurricane that reaches land at even 160 mph tends to go down in the record books.”

“Our construction techniques in the Caribbean region have improved considerably after 1989,when Hurricane Hugo hit the Eastern Caribbean and caused a considerable amount of damage. Hurricane straps, ties, the distance between rafters, etc. were all rethought and strengthened. Although we always welcome new and improved construction technologies, our Building Code is sound, and many of our construction techniques are superior to those in many international countries.”

“Hurricane Irma was a fluke of nature,” Dias said.

Mark Hennecart, Director at Interisland Architects and Planners Ltd contacted Dias via social media and said: “…on behalf of architects all over the Caribbean region and the OECS in particular, I extend my sincere thanks.

“As a member of the 3-man team of consultants who were commissioner to revise the OECS Building Code in 2015, I can attest to the posture you adopt with respect to the quality and hazard resilience of building construction in the Eastern Caribbean, generally.

“In Saint Lucia, where I reside and practice, we have come a very long way since our island was impacted by Hurricane Allen in 1980. Indeed the statements made by those Floridians are unfortunate.”

Dias said since the article she has been inundated with “interesting and valid questions from residents throughout the region, on what exactly makes a building capable of resisting the impact of Category 5 Hurricanes.” She will be responding to the queries in an attempt to extend the conversation and hopefully improve the adherence to best building code practices.

Read the LoopTT article here: Architect responds after Floridians call Caribbean houses ‘cardboard’