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BSJ drafts new codes to police building maintenance

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2015 | 5:58 PMTameka Gordon

The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has crafted a new set of building codes that will eventually overhaul the way residential and commercial buildings are renovated and maintained.

The Jamaican Standard Application Document - JSAD - aims to bring Jamaica's building practices closer in line with the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) on issues on public health and safety as well as energy efficiency.

"The expressed intent of the code is to ensure public health, safety and welfare insofar as they are affected by the continued occupancy and maintenance" of premises, the BSJ said via email to the Financial Gleaner.

Jamaica is yet to pass a building bill, so construction activity continues to be guided by set codes. The JSAD codes, which are in draft state, will form part of the National Building Codes of Jamaica and will become legally enforceable once a new Building Act is passed by Parliament, the BSJ said.

The code will force "designers and contractors to approach their work with maintenance issues in mind" and are to "be applied to all existing residential and non-residential structures and all existing premises," the standards regulator said.

"Existing structures and premises that do not comply with these provisions must be altered or repaired to provide a minimum level of health and safety."

Repairs, alterations, additions and change of occupancy in existing buildings will need to comply with JSAD, which is to be used in conjunction with the IPMC.

The code makes minimum requirements for light, ventilation, space, heating, sanitation and fire safety, and the responsibility of owners, operators and occupants.

"For example, a passage way in Jamaica is required to be a minimum of three feet. But sometimes when a person gets the building approved, later on they make modifications and reduce the size. Or, they may install AC [air conditioning] units on the outside where there may be an escape passageway and that reduces the width of the area - so that may be considered a violation," said BSJ acting Executive Director Maurice Lewin.

When passed, the Building Act is expected to name the Ministry of Local Government and the parish councils as the officials authorised to enforce the provisions of the code, with the BSJ as custodian. The BSJ will also be responsible for updating the codes.