‘Steel houses’ to be ready in four months, says Sutherland

Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dwight Sutherland has given the assurance that despite challenges related to the construction of 150 steel-framed houses imported from China, “every affected Barbadian promised such a house will receive one within the next four months”.

These houses, which include solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs, were to be shipped from September, 2021, and delivered and installed by December 31, 2021, at a cost of $22.6 million.

“I have heard the queries of several Barbadians concerning the progress of construction of the 150 steel-framed houses which were imported into Barbados by Government last December to fill a need for emergency shelter for 150 families whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Elsa last July,” Sutherland said in a press statement issued late today.

Sutherland said the intention was to have people affected by Elsa “restored to their new homes by Christmas last year” but this has not been the case.

The minister said the timely completion of this project has been affected by “unforeseen circumstances” leading to delays. These include two strong storms in China which resulted in the cargo arriving in Barbados on December 6, 2021. This meant that the deadline could not be met, the statement said.

“In addition, as part of the contractual arrangement, it was expected that key technical personnel, including engineers, would have formed part of a team to be sent from China to provide the technical expertise needed to assist with the erection of the houses and, at the same time, facilitate the transfer of critical knowledge to local personnel.

“This, however, did not occur since these persons were not granted visas to facilitate their travels into Barbados. Only two of the technical team were eventually able to acquire the visas needed and these persons were then required to contract a local firm and provide the training necessary for the local workers.”

Sutherland said this has generated employment and local labour is being used in the assembly of the houses.

“In fact, to reach our new deadline in four months’ time, Prime Minister [Mia Amor Mottley] has agreed that we should retain and train 200-300 more local workers in order to complete the job more quickly.”

Another delay, according to Sutherland, “was the fact that it was found that on a whole, the steel-framed houses were actually designed to much higher quality standards than would normally apply in Barbados”.

“The local teams accordingly had to make the necessary adjustments, which created a steep, but invaluable, learning curve for local personnel.

Sutherland said contractors had to “familiarise themselves with the design requirements” and to ensure that they were meeting the standards required both for preparing the foundations, as well as with the assembling of the structures. Additionally, the plumbing and electrical plans took a while to be assessed.

“The process was further prolonged with the intervention of the General Elections, Christmas breaks by the contractors undertaking the work, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to these, the contractors were affected by repeated incidences of theft of materials at some of their work sites, requiring police intervention,” the statement said.

With regard to the contract, the Ministry of Housing, Lands and Maintenance signed an Agreement with East-West Solutions (Barbados) Inc. on August 10, 2021, for that company to import 74 single unit houses, 9 quads (36 housing units) and 20 duplexes (40 units) on an emergency basis, as a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Elsa.

These houses, which would include solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs, were to be shipped from September, 2021, and delivered and installed by December 31, 2021, at a cost of $22.6 million. (PR/KG)

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