New draft G/town building code under review
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Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine
Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine

By Rehana Ahamad

THE existing building code for the city of Georgetown is outdated by at least eight decades; it was crafted in 1946, in keeping with engineering standards of 1935, according to prominent engineer Charles Ceres.

“The building code that we currently have prevents any building in Georgetown for going up more than two stories,” Ceres posited. This would mean that the majority of buildings in the city are in breach of its building regulations. A revision of the building code has been on the table for many years and a new draft has finally materialised.

The new document was crafted by Ceres, the Managing-Director of Ground Structures Engineering, and was generously gifted to the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC).

“If we want to have a properly functioning city, we need to put the new building code in place,” Ceres told the Guyana Chronicle during an interview.

Although he is not a resident of Georgetown, Ceres said that he has a deep interest in the functionality of the city; thus his offer to create a draft of the new code.

Mayor Ubraj Narine told this newspaper on Sunday that the document is currently with the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE).

“We have sent it to them for consultation and review,” the mayor noted. He explained that once feedback is provided by the association, the document would then undergo a final review, after which it will be passed by the City Council and then forwarded to the Minister of Local Government for further approval.

“The building code is really a lot of work, so it is taking some time,” Narine posited.

Asked about a timeline, the mayor said that none has been imposed, but he is planning to follow up with the association very soon.
Meanwhile, Ceres said that he attended one consultation meeting with GAPE and was disappointed.

“I went to a meeting, and it was like nobody had nothing else to add to it,” Ceres lamented.

He believes that in order for the document to be effective, it has to be an all-hands-on-deck approach, in an environment conducive to the exchange of good, wholesome ideas.

“It has to be a collective approach,” Ceres stressed. The need for a new city building code has been addressed by a number of persons and agencies, including the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS), as well as the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and other private sector entities.

President of the GCCI, Nicholas Boyer, told this newspaper that businesses are in favour of the institution of new building codes, and would happily support its implementation.

“Building codes exist to protect people,” Boyer emphasised.

The businessman said that he has not been privy to a copy of the new draft building code, but expects it to be one that is comprehensive. In 2019, the Georgetown M&CC had issued a statement reminding persons to seek the requisite approval from the council before attempting to build, whether for residential or commercial purposes.

The statement had explained that the City Engineer’s Department is not the only entity that checks plans for conformity.

“If the construction falls within a sewage area for example; Wortmanville, Bourda or Lacytown, the officers of the Guyana Water Inc. has a critical role to play in ensuring that the construction does not compromise sewage chambers located within the specific site,” the statement noted.

It further noted that while the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) has to provide land-use clearance for the construction of commercial entities, persons had been submitting plans without the necessary prerequisites.

Building codes serve as a guideline for the effective layout and maintenance of any area. In Georgetown, it is vital in protecting the public health, safety, and general welfare of residents, especially as it relates to protection from tragedy caused by fire, structural collapse, and general deterioration, etc.

Despite the city being home to many derelict buildings that can be fire hazards, the mayor said that there are no by-laws permitting the council to intervene.
“There are old, wooden buildings that have been abandoned for years and years, but we, as the council, we can’t do anything about it,” Narine lamented.

It is hoped that the implementation of the new building code would also address the drainage problems in the city.

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