Development of National Building Code Under Way

A National Building Code is being developed to establish the guidelines that should be observed in the design, construction and maintenance of buildings.It is being developed by the Jamaica Institute of Engineers (JIE) in collaboration with the Jamaica Bureau of Standards (JBS) at a cost of $20 million and is scheduled for completion by May 2005.
This was outlined by Noel daCosta of the (JIE) and member of the Professional Engineers Registration Board (PERB) as he addressed a meeting of the Jamaica General Insurance Company (JAGIC) recently.
Currently, Jamaica does not have an up-to-date Building Code. The present legal code, which dates back to1902, was updated in 1983 as a policy document and is therefore not enforceable. “If somebody doesn’t build according to it (the policy document) there is no real recourse,” Mr. daCosta pointed out. Additionally, he said that a Caribbean Uniform Building Code (CUBiC) developed 19 years ago in 1985 was yet to be made a legal document and remained only a guideline.
According to Mr. daCosta, an informal survey among engineers and their use of CUBiC revealed that approximately 46 per cent of engineers used this most recent policy guideline. He added that another 30 per cent of engineers did not know about CUBiC, while 24 per cent knew of CUBiC but did not use it. Forty-three per cent of those surveyed used foreign codes such as the British Standard, the American Concrete Institute, the Structural Engineers Association of California, the American Society for Testing Material and the International Building Code (IBC), among others.
Mr. daCosta asserted that in contracting persons to provide engineering services one must ensure that they were registered with PERB to do so. According to him, professional engineers were trained to understand and interpret the various codes that governed their practice. He implored JAGIC to ensure that only registered individuals and organisations were given professional indemnity insurance as only they were licensed to practice.
He admitted that adopting the International Building Code, as Jamaica’s base document was “the best return for the limited resources we have”. Explaining, he said, that building codes should be updated every three years and that this was so for the IBC. He pointed out that Jamaica would not have to expend any resources in carrying out such an exercise and added that the code facilitated the harmonisation of standards while being adaptable to the country’s culture and climate.
Mr. daCosta noted that because the IBC was used in the Americas, Jamaica would benefit from the accreditation of building inspectors and the movement of engineering services among the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Local stakeholders would also benefit from the training component of the Code, he said.
He added that the IBC was used in the United States where climatic conditions such as hurricanes and earthquakes were similar to the Jamaican experience and would therefore cover construction designs that could withstand these natural disasters. Other disasters such as floods, landslides and storm surges that affect Jamaica from time-to-time are also addressed in the IBC.
In developing the code, the government has instructed the working group to include the disaster experience from Hurricane Gilbert, where buildings are designed to withstand winds up to 150 miles per hour (mph) up from 120 mph as in previously designed structures. The Code would also give consideration to the provision of access to buildings for disabled persons, Mr. daCosta said.

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