The Construction Opportunity in Dominica

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“Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total. We have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”

— Roosevelt Skerrit. Prime Minister of Dominica

Some four months after confronting the 250-km winds of category-five hurricane Maria that destroyed or severely damaged up to 70% of all local structures, Dominica faces the unique opportunity to become what Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit refers to as “the first completely climate resilient nation in the world.”

House in Dominica, post hurricane Maria 2017, showing devastation . No roof. Construction and rebuild starting 2018
House in Dominica, post-hurricane Maria 2017, showing devastation. (Photo credits: Utherootz)

According to the United Nations, 23,488 houses continue to be moderate to highly damaged or destroyed with over 80 percent of houses still having inadequate roofing and with a significant proportion of the island suffering severe displacement.

House in Dominica after Hurricane Maria, no roof, devastation. Construction and rebuild starting 2018
House in Dominica, post-hurricane Maria 2017, showing the way some people are still living, until further help. (Photo credits: Utherootz)

Said Skerrit of the efforts made both by locals and foreign firms, “What we’re doing is take an opportunity to build back better. And we’re now putting the master plan in place. It entails sustainable livelihoods. In respect to energy, moving more into renewables – geothermal, solar. And we’ll certainly be looking at the construction codes in the state of Florida, for example.”

In keeping with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s 12-point hurricane recovery plan issued in October 2017, revised building guidelines have been implemented, incorporating new housing standards for enhanced earthquake/hurricane resistance. 400 construction professionals and 75 professionals from supporting industries have been trained according to these revised guidelines.

Also in keeping with this plan, the government promised to waive taxes and duties on the importation of construction material for a period of six months.

Plans to establish a local concrete plant have been announced, and building materials such as sand, aggregate and stones will continue to be sourced locally.

Given the fact that in 2016, there were only 350 new homes built on the island, fulfilling labour demands has been a problem for contractors. Given the wage disparity with its island neighbours, there is the added challenge of attracting paid labour from within the region.

There is also a need for expertise and knowledge transfer, raw materials, resources and support. Assistance is required in the areas of debris removal and waste management and an urgent need for more capital and generators to overcome the challenges of a severely limited electrical supply.

Said Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, of the electrical situation, “every electric pole is on the ground. It is one of the most painful scenes I’ve ever had to witness.” Mitchell also made the point that “electricity is such a critical factor in reconstruction. Without it, it’s going to be impossible to recover.”

After a November visit to the island, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres referred to the need to get the international community involved with reconstruction. “It’s going to require thinking out of the box,” said Guterres.

In October, millions of dollars worth of construction materials and other items for rebuilding were received as a donation from Trinidadian businessman, Inshan Ishmael, with assistance from the CEO of Carvalho’s Agencies, a ship’s agent and tour provider.

Jamaican construction company, the Tank-Weld Group, donated a shipment of 100 tons of Galvalume roof sheeting valued at US$200,000 to Dominica.

Preconco Set To Build Climate Resilient Homes In The Caribbean

Barbados-based Preconco Limited has been contracted to construct 1,000 homes with an initial phase of importation of 20 pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete homes that will take two months to complete, from start to finish.

Preconco Barbados Precast Homes, Coverley. Similar for Dominica construction. Rebuild
Example of a similar home which is being built by Barbados-based Preconco Limited for Dominica

These structures will meet the heightened seismic and wind safety requirements of the region, providing the opportunity to efficiently deliver on the government’s promise of sustainable housing communities. 50-Dominicans have been employed for the first phase of the project. “We’ve engineered the housing structures to suit the required needs. We’ve also implemented our design for a concrete roof system,” said Josh Read, Operations Manager of Preconco and Caribbean Homes Ltd.

Preparation of Preconco's shipment of precast homes for Dominica Construction. Rebuild
Preparation of Preconco’s shipment of precast homes for Dominica

 

Preparation of Preconco's shipment of precast homes for Dominica Construction. Rebuild.
Preparation of Preconco’s shipment of precast homes for Dominica

Citizenship by Investment firm, Montreal Management Consultants Est (MMCE), has been contracted to build close to 400 new homes, which have been touted as having “set the standard as model social housing in the region.”

The involvement of regional and international companies during the post-crisis period provides the opportunity for knowledge transfer in areas such as welding, plumbing, electrical engineering, steel bending, machine operating and specialty fabrication works. It is also a direct contributor to the economy through various fees due to the port and haulers as well as for crane and equipment rental and other direct and indirect contributions associated with such projects.

Said Skerrit of the various benefits of engaging foreign firms in reconstruction, “Our declaration that we shall make Dominica the first green climate resilient nation in the world has captured the imagination of countries, organisations, institutions and individuals. It is important for us to work towards achieving this it is going to require the commitment of all of us.”

 

Additional Reads:

The Caribbean’s Urgent Climate Call

The Rebuild – Green, Disaster Resilient Homes

Net Zero Buildings – An Answer to Climate Change in the Caribbean?

Concrete: How to achieve strength and durability

Know your Concrete Block: Quality and Utility


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