Urgent need for building codes, standards

Dear Editor,
The PPP/C Government has embarked on a building boom that is receiving worldwide attention. Guyanese at home and abroad are excited, and rightly so, about the impending improvement in the quality of life from this building boom. However, there is a hidden danger that can turn the boom into a bust. There are no codes and standards (or contemporary ones) to guide quality and safety.
Over the last four decades, there have been sporadic calls, especially after a fire, from groups and individuals for the enactment of building codes. Policymakers have not, at least seriously, heeded these calls. Rather, they lament, usually after public outrage, when public infrastructural works are poorly constructed, and the public is deprived.
Codes (building, residential, electrical, fire, plumbing, and so on) and standards embody technical knowledge from contemporary research and years of practical experience. They include a comprehensive set of minimum health, safety and energy standards to protect the public (safety, security, health and costs), and the environment. These codes and standards are essential guides for safe, sustainable and economical design, construction best practices and maintenance of infrastructural works.
Guyana is in a unique position to capitalise on codes and standards developed and used in many countries, especially high-income countries, to quickly establish its own. This requires personnel familiar with current codes and standards, the local environment and state-of-the-art practices. For example, the International Building Codes (IBC) is popular in the USA. However, each state and its jurisdictions make amendments to some of the IBC clauses to satisfy local conditions, statutes, and practices. Enacted codes and standards via legislation are necessary but not sufficient. One or more organisational structures are required to provide training of inspectors, architects, contractors and engineers, and empower enforcement.
I implore the current Government to earnestly begin the process of developing and enacting codes and standards, provide for the training needs and enable tight enforcement. The success of the fantastic ongoing and planned infrastructural works including the proposed Silica Smart City is threatened by the absence of these codes and standards. The excitement, hopes and dreams of the Guyanese people must not be vanquished by substandard infrastructural works.

Dr Muniram Budhu