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Hurricane María

Engineers, architects ally to push for safer construction

Puerto Rico building codes and methods must be improved, so structures hold up to catastrophic storms. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

The School of Architects and Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico (CAAPPR in Spanish) and the School of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CIAPR) have partnered to deliver an “urgent” message about the importance of hiring professionals with technical expertise to build safe housing and structures to withstand the brunt of a Hurricane María-type storm.

Concerned about the development of a “boom” in informal construction, especially in high-risk communities located in flood-prone areas or those near the ocean, both trade groups urged the government not to give in to the rush, causing greater debacle and loss of money.

The organizations, which group among it’s members professionals related to the construction sector — architects, landscape architects, engineers and surveyors —said the “unprecedented union” is designed to be able to help make Puerto Rico’s reconstruction safer in terms of infrastructure, to avoid past mistakes.

Ivonne María Marcial-Vega and Pablo Vázquez-Ruiz, president of CAAPPR and CIAPR, respectively, said their members are professionals with the expertise and technical experience, to oversee Puerto Rico’s reconstruction.

“Without ignoring the people’s urgency, it is vitally important that the government proceed in a measured way. It is vital that we not allow this situation to lead agencies to accelerate processes that don’t support the project to rebuild a more resilient infrastructure,” both said.

The CAAPPR and CIAPR are evaluating the experience learned in terms of infrastructure after Hurricane María, to identify vulnerability, recommend types of construction, and emphasize the urgency of tempering Puerto Rico’s building codes to respond to a new reality.

In the short term they will be hosting roundtables with the local construction sector leaders from the Association of General Contractors, Builders Association, CAAPR and CIAPR — who are also the official advisers to the government on this issue — to assess and gather lessons learned and explore possible solutions to present proposals in a unified manner to the government and the community.

“María left us as palpable lesson that we are facing a new construction paradigm and part of our infrastructure was not remotely ready for a hurricane of this strength. Building the same, informally, we will only lead us to having to repeat reconstruction countless times,” the executives said in a joint statement.

Similarly, both schools identified the urgent need to identify essential infrastructure the island must have, including dams, communication towers, gas stations, electricity infrastructure — including renewable energy — and others, to develop special building codes that make them permanent and able to withstand a Category 5 storm.

In the long term, the groups will seek greater integration with government agencies concerned to develop better planning that benefits the entire community, they said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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