The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
MOST Bahamians would be priced out of the real estate market if the building code were changed so residential homes and businesses could withstand a Category Five hurricane, former Bahamas Contractor’s Association President Leonard Sands said yesterday.
“If you make it mandatory that houses now have to be built to deal with that category of strength, you’re talking about absolutely wiping out the construction centre because no one would be able to qualify for their homes,” he said. “The cost of the houses is going up already in places where you see the home building market is depressed because a lot of people can’t qualify anymore.
“The typical house that you could probably build in Marsh Harbour can probably be built at $130,000. To build for Category Five storms, people in the islands would be building three-bedroom, two bathrooms houses for a quarter million.”
The cost increase is because of the amount of steel and concrete needed for reinforcement.
Some Bahamians have long taken pride in the strength of the country’s building code, but with 90 percent of the buildings in Marsh Harbour destroyed, for instance, some have questioned whether the standards are outdated in the era of climate change.
George Cornish, 51, Abaco’s chief councillor, said evacuating entire islands before a storm is preferable to changing the building code.
“From my point of view, we’ve never seen a hurricane like this in our life,” he said from the United States where he went after the storm. “I went through Hurricane Floyd that damaged docks and buildings and stuff and the damage wasn’t this. This was Category Five, maybe even a six. I don’t think the building codes needs to change. I think we have a proper building code that has stood the test of time of other hurricanes. I think they are strong but it’s just this hurricane is something we’ve never seen in our lives before. If you change the code, poor people and those in the middle class wouldn’t be able to afford to build.”
Instead, Mr Cornish said massive hurricane shelters should be built in communities on all inhabited islands. Some designated shelters, like the Central Abaco Primary School, initially housed hundreds of residents before the storm but became so severely compromised that people scrambled to leave in the midst of Dorian’s passage.
“We need to build something up to code that can stand 180mph winds and more,” he said, noting the only shelter built specifically to withstand major hurricanes is located in Sandy Point, a settlement that did not get directly hit by Dorian.
The existing building code is designed to protect buildings when facing winds of up to 150mph. Dorian was a monster storm that had wind gusts exceeding 200mph when it made landfall on Abaco on September 1.