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LETTER OF THE DAY - Building code delay putting lives at risk

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

In a letter to the editor published on July 14, 2010, titled 'Pass building law now', I made note of the long-awaited enactment of legislation and a national building-control framework. To date, no progress has been made in this regard.

In your Editors' Forum, published on February 7, 2010, experts discussed lessons learnt from the Haitian earthquake a month earlier, and stated: "The failure of successive governments to pass legislation to introduce a national building code could put the lives of many Jamaicans at risk if the country gets hit by a major earthquake."

The editorial of February 10 even noted: "Substantial work has (sic) already been done on a code for Jamaica. It ought to be possible to complete the relevant law, in relatively short order, and have it passed by Parliament." In an article titled 'New building codes coming', on April 4, 2010, it was even stated that: "Cabinet has (sic) issued instruction for the drafting of legislation to establish a national control framework for the island."

Yet, the ratification of this law has now taken more than two years, with no sign of completion in short order. Are we waiting on the loss of life before we act?

Having been involved in one of the several working groups charged with the review and adoption of the International Code Council's (ICC) 2003 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) late in 2004, I spoke of the dedication and effort made by local academics, architects, engineers and lawyers who volunteered their time to complete that goal, and noted that the IBC was consistently revised by the ICC on a three-year cycle. So, the code reviewed had been revised twice up to the date of the letter.

Parliament has now failed to pass the relevant law before IBC 2003 has been revised a third time.

We now have a new administration in charge. So, I restate my appeal for the enactment of legislation and a national building-control framework. Again, the longer Parliament takes to deal with this matter, the more outdated the work becomes, and the lives of more Jamaicans are put at risk.

Let us not wait for tragedy to hit before we act. Let us be proactive.

PAUL HAY

paul.hay@phcjam.com