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Holness saves big on house - Opposition leader outlines benefits of hands-on approach to home construction

Published:Friday | February 19, 2016 | 2:00 AMGary Spaulding
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness speaks with The Gleaner during an exclusive interview at his West King's House Road office in St Andrew on Wednesday.
Andrew Holness' house.
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Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness has said that the hands-on role in the management, planning, and building of his Beverley Hills house, now under construction, has served as a massive cost saver.

In moving to demolish the arguments of critics, Holness told The Gleaner that he and his wife's decision to utilise port concrete instead of block and steel in the construction of the house has paid off big time.

Holness' spouse, Juliet, who is running as a JLP candidate in St Andrew East Rural, is a real estate developer by profession.

"It all boils down to the kind of system that one uses," asserted the JLP leader.

"We didn't go with the the traditional block and steel. We used port concrete with form systems because that's what my wife is now using on her construction projects," he said.

"That's a cost we didn't have to absorb."

Senior players in the construction and housing sectors have suggested that the cost of construction for Holness' substantially completed house is nowhere close to costs in the market.

One player has remarked that Holness was able to build an upscale house cheaper than professionals can build an affordable house in terms of cost per square foot.

"I can't question what the professionals say, but I know what we have done," said Holness.

He insisted that much of the expenses were offset by shrewd use of building materials as well in the execution of his craft in carpentry.

 

$52 MILLION

 

Holness told The Gleaner that his wife has been instrumental in carving and shaving the cost to build his house that he has stated has cost in the region of $52 million.

"People have to be realistic," he said. "We have a standing crew because they are constantly using forms to build."

Holness told The Gleaner that managing the project has saved the couple a substantial amount in expenses.

"People don't know this, but I actually laid some of the stones. I spent time at the start supervising the work," he said.

Added to that, Holness said that his wife was also on the site most of the time.

"It was very interesting. You see me losing a lot of weight," he chuckled. "A lot of that was walking up and down on the hills and supervising and even mixing concrete."

Holness said that his training in woodwork has also helped.

"People don't know this either, but I did woodwork at school as my technical subject, so I have a little knowledge of carpentry and I found it a great source of relaxation to go and do some of the work."

He laughingly said that people have seen him in action and are shocked.

"And yes, we do construction, so that has been a big plus."

The JLP leader suggested that the cynicism may be borne out of a realisation that "we are not building as efficiently as we can in Jamaica".

Holness opined that there are many new technologies that can be employed in the construction industry.

"Our mindset is too much on block and steel."

Citing an example, Holness said: "We used quite a bit of foam in our building for insulation, which has worked out to be far more economical when you use them for internal walls, and they are just as strong and earthquake resistant."

Added Holness: "We incorporated in our construction quite a bit of innovations, as well."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com