BVI to adopt strong building codes in aftermath of Hurricane Irma

BVI to adopt strong building codes in aftermath of Hurricane Irma
This photo provided by the British Royal Navy shows the destruction after Hurricane Irma, in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
Joel Rouse / Royal Navy via Associated Press

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) government says plans are being made to review and upgrade the Territory’s building codes following the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.

“This hurricane that hit us is the scale we have never seen before, it was a Category 5, and it was really devastating,” said BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. D. Orlando Smith, speaking during a live radio Town Hall Meeting on ZBVI 780AM on Sept. 25.

“Interestingly, just before that, we had intense flooding, again, such as we never had before in the BVI. Times have changed, and global warming is definitely affecting us; and we now have to look at where we are as a country and make the adjustments to suit the times in which we live.”

“We have to take lessons from what has happened, certainly with Irma and review our building codes,” he added. “We have lost and received damage to about 70 percent of our buildings, and that now gives us an opportunity to build smarter and stronger.”

The premier said, just a few months ago, he had received a copy of the first draft of the new building code, because he had some concerns about the way buildings were being constructed.

“But now, we have to review that again; and, when we do that, we will want to involve the community and get your contributions, so that, in the end, we will be able to build stronger and better,” Smith said.

Speaking in support of the building code review, Junior Minister for Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs, Marlon A. Penn said, “We have an opportunity to rebuild, and to do new things and rebuild green.

“Our rebuilding efforts have to take into effect the impact of global warming, as we have seen the impact of global warming first-hand,” he said.

In sharing similar sentiments, Junior Minister for Tourism, Archibald Christian said that the Category 5 hurricanes seem to be the new norm, adding, however, that the Territory now needs to build to withstand Category 5-plus hurricanes.

“We need to build stronger and better, and it will take the efforts of professionals to assist us,” Christian said. “We have a number of engineers here in the Territory, as well as those from the region and internationally, but it can’t be business as usual anymore when it comes to building.

“We need to be building bunkers now that can withstand a Category 5 hurricane and above,” he added.

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