By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
Veteran builder and highly regarded contractor Mr. James Todman announced that the extreme devastations to homes and businesses that were caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria are an indication that contractors in the Territory need to revisit traditional building techniques.
Many buildings in the British Virgin Islands lost roofs during the hurricanes resulting in the damages to homes and businesses. Now as efforts to recover proceed, contractors are in high demand. The persistent use of nails where screws should be used and the way the 2” x 4” lumber is utilized are critical in making more resistant roofs; unfortunately many persons are contented with something that looks like a roof but is bound to fly away the moment a strong hurricane comes to the BVI. The choice of a contractor and his skilled workers is crucial, whilst generic labourers can only do unprofessional patchwork, sometime asking more than contractors. The loss of the roof is prejudicial to the structure of the construction and will result in a total loss of the contents of the roofless rooms.
In an interview with The Island Sun newspaper on Tuesday, Mr. Todman said this situation should not be viewed as a glory day for the construction industry, but rather an opportunity for skills development.
He explained: “It is a good period for contractors, I won’t say it’s a good period to become a contractor, because I think that this is an opportunity for licensed contractors; for us to do the right thing. Yes we can’t build to withstand hurricanes, but we could build to meet certain requirements. So you should be a licensed contractor and an experienced contractor also.”
Todman said that there was a Contractors Association some years ago, but he indicated that he was unsure if the organization was still functioning. “I think now is a better time for us as contractors to pull together for unity and quality, not just quantity, but quality because this hurricane brought out a lot in contractors, a lot in workmanship and I think from now the workmanship should be to a higher standard.”
The veteran builder said that damage from natural disasters can never be fully mitigated against and no contractor can guarantee a building will not suffer damages. However, he explained that as a future precaution various preventative techniques can be stipulated in the Building Code.
In explaining how a balance can be reached between the uncertain nature of hurricanes and mitigation Todman said: “The Building Code can require this and it can require that, but the next hurricane may come in a different fashion and different way. But we see where we are weak now and we can strengthen.”
In recent years experienced meteorologists have repeatedly insisted that stronger hurricanes may become the norm; it would also seem that currents have changed and now you have hurricanes going as far as Ireland, Scotland and parts of the United Kingdom. All of this is compliments of the criminals who have created global warming while describing it as fake news.
In noting some of the changes Todman would suggest going forward: “Many contractors I guess could testify that there were weak areas. Not that you did it weak but you see that especially where roof start failing from first. In those areas you will strengthen.”
In the area of roof construction he said that it was noted that buildings with over hangs and wide porches were affected. In pointing out the changes he foresees may need to be taken as it relates to roof construction Todman said: “They got blown off because the roof had spacing to act; and rafters may have been placed 32 inches, now you could place them at least two feet. You may have some who may want to move from a wood roof to a concrete roof and you shouldn’t move from a wood roof to a concrete roof unless it’s properly structured, because you need to ensure that the lower floor could take the weight and it properly binds to the roof on top
“It’s a good opportunity for us here as locals to do the jobs and for the economy it should be something good that each person can benefit from if we all as locals can hold hand in hand to do this work.”
Rebuilding & Insurances
As it relates to rebuilding Todman explained that financing remains the issue. “The situation is everybody is waiting on the insurance and I feel now is a good chance for the insurance to help build the economy. There are a lot of homes that were not insured — well I guess that will have to deal with on some other angle, but those who have been insured I think the insurance [companies]should look at them and make sure everyone is satisfied: the insurance is satisfied also the client is satisfied,” he explained.
“By giving the customers what is due to them, and what they are insured for, if that is given to them then the economy could pick up, because right now everybody who is insured is waiting on calls, some may get before [some]but it still needs more to inject in order for us to continue growing,” he added.
While the veteran contractor is not willing to say that the delayed insurance payout is stalling recovery efforts on some front. He did explain that without money people cannot restore their properties. “Without money lets be real, since Irma everybody went to cash, there is no more credit even if you send a check nobody don’t want to see the check unless the name has a little weight,” he further noted.
While it is good therapy to be optimistic, one must also be realistic and watch how some insurance companies will disappoint their clients. An article published recently by The Balance pointed out that “homeowner policies cover different aspects of damage to your home caused by storms, some hurricane damage may be covered, however, in most cases due to the types of damage a hurricane may cause, most people in a hurricane-prone area need more than one policy to cover damages.”