Par­ish coun­cils and pro­fes­sion­al­ism

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Las­celles Dixon Las­celles Dixon Las­celles Dixon is past pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional So­ci­eties As­so­ci­a­tion and a cur­rent mem­ber of the Ja­maica In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects. Email feedback to col­umns@glean­ and ldixarch@hot­

IR­RE­SPEC­TIVE OF the out­come of the up­com­ing par­ish coun­cil elec­tions, the Min­istry of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and/or par­ish coun­cils, or mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions, as they have re­named them­selves, in the name of pub­lic safety, must come to terms with the ques­tion of pro­fes­sion­al­ism as it re­lates to the projects they ap­prove and mon­i­tor dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Within re­cent times, it would ap­pear as though a trend has de­vel­oped in which sev­eral ho­tel projects have suf­fered from par­tial col­lapse dur­ing con­struc­tion. Still fresh in the minds of many is the col­lapse of a ma­jor por­tion of the Pear Tree Bot­tom ho­tel, Bahía Príncipe, on the north coast, a few years ago. Since then, there have been at least three ho­tel projects that have fol­lowed suit.

More re­cently (and here the dust has hardly set­tled), there was the par­tial col­lapse of a ho­tel build­ing in Ne­gril. If this was not enough, since then, there has been the most re­cent oc­cur­rence of a sim­i­lar na­ture, this time at a Trelawny ho­tel (Roy­al­ton). Are these in­di­ca­tions that we should see a to­tal col­lapse of one of our ho­tel build­ings, this time filled to ca­pac­ity with guests?

While these ho­tel build­ings are get­ting larger and with more so­phis­ti­cated re­quire­ments to sat­isfy the needs of the thou­sands of guests they serve, of equal im­por­tance are the smaller build­ings and hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, which also re­quire the high­est lev­els of pro­fes­sional in­put.

It stands to good rea­son that those con­sul­tants (in­di­vid­u­als or firms) who City en­gi­neer at the KSAC, Nor­man Shand, car­ries out a com­pres­sive strength test on a col­umn at the Roy­al­ton Ne­gril ho­tel in the wake of struc­tural col­lapse. At left is Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Des­mond McKen­zie.

de­sign to­day’s build­ings must be equal to the task by virtue of their pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in or­der to meet strin­gent de­sign re­quire­ments. Here when we say ‘de­sign’, this should not be mis­in­ter­preted to only mean a re­sponse to ap­pear­ance, func­tion, or aes­thet­ics. We are talk­ing about (but not lim­ited to) the many pages of math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion in the form of struc­tural anal­y­sis (com­puter print­outs), which some­times take into ac­count sim­u­la­tions of dif­fer­ent load­ing con­di­tions and stress dis­tri­bu­tion un­der earthquake con­di­tions.

In most cases, pro­fes­sion­als who carry out earthquake struc­tural anal­y­sis and see to the prepa­ra­tion of de­tailed draw­ings for ap­proval by the par­ish coun­cil (and, ul­ti­mately, con­struc­tion) are spe­cial­ists who have been trained to the Mas­ter of Sci­ence de­gree level in engi­neer­ing. The same level of train­ing also ap­plies to ar­chi­tects who are cur­rently be­ing ed­u­cated and trained at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy to meet present-day ar­chi­tec­tural com­plex­i­ties.

Not­with­stand­ing the above, it is to be noted that an es­ti­mated 90 per cent or more of the build­ings in Ja­maica are not de­signed by pro­fes­sion­als. Fur­ther, most ar­chi­tec­tural and engi­neer­ing draw­ings for those large ho­tels be­ing built in Ja­maica are pre­pared by over­seas con­sul­tants (ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers), with very lit­tle or no in­put from lo­cal con­sul­tants, who, among other things, are more fa­mil­iar with lo­cal con­di­tions, as well as labour-re­lated is­sues that may arise dur­ing con­struc­tion.


Per­sons who are al­lowed to sub­mit draw­ings and other doc­u­men­ta­tion for ap­proval to the par­ish coun­cils ought to be reg­is­tered pro­fes­sion­als here in Ja­maica. Over­seas con­sul­tants who are op­er­at­ing here should be con­sid­ered for tem­po­rary lo­cal reg­is­tra­tion on a time­limit ba­sis by ei­ther or both of the two reg­is­tra­tion boards – Ar­chi­tects Reg­is­tra­tion Board and Pro­fes­sional En­gi­neers Reg­is­tra­tion Board. Ja­maica must take full charge of its precinct where the prac­tice of ar­chi­tec­ture and engi­neer­ing is con­cerned.

The preser­va­tion of pub­lic safety must be the pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion of pro­fes­sional prac­tice. We should not as­sume that ev­ery over­seas ar­chi­tect and en­gi­neer who makes a sub­mis­sion for ap­proval to the par­ish coun­cil is ad­e­quately qual­i­fied. We must en­sure the preser­va­tion of pro­fes­sional in­tegrity. To this end, any­one who presents doc­u­men­ta­tion for ap­proval by a par­ish coun­cil ought to be re­quired to ap­ply their pro­fes­sional stamp.

The St Ann Par­ish Coun­cil seems to have opened the gate by in­tro­duc­ing a new group of non-pro­fes­sional per­sons re­ferred to as ‘build­ing prac­ti­tion­ers’. These per­sons have no stamp; how­ever, they are now al­lowed to make ap­pli­ca­tions to that coun­cil and are al­lowed to de­sign any build­ing, al­though such per­sons are nei­ther qual­i­fied ar­chi­tects nor en­gi­neers.

In­deed, the pub­lic needs to have an­swers to the fol­low­ing by ei­ther the Min­istry of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment or the St Ann Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion as fol­lows:

1. Is it true that there are lit­tle or no set aca­demic re­quire­ments or lit­tle proven pro­fes­sional train­ing re­quired as a pre­req­ui­site to be des­ig­nated build­ing prac­ti­tioner?

2. Con­sid­er­ing the need for clar­ity and pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, what are the spe­cific aca­demic and pro­fes­sional re­quire­ments of one be­ing des­ig­nated build­ing prac­ti­tioner?

3. Is it true that this group of per­sons can op­er­ate on their own, in­de­pen­dently of the es­tab­lished pro­fes­sion­als – ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers?

4. Is it to be ex­pected that this open­door sit­u­a­tion that is now in force at the St Ann Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion will be­come the norm among all par­ish coun­cils?

5. Why is it nec­es­sary for this clas­si­fi­ca­tion of per­sons to be es­tab­lished, con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent over­sup­ply of pro­fes­sional ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers?

An­swers to the above ques­tions would be greatly ap­pre­ci­ated.




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