MARIGOT–Newly-appointed Préfet of the Region of Guadeloupe Philippe Gustin at a press conference in Hotel de la Collectivité on Friday morning officially presented a series of detailed booklets representing helpful guides on reconstruction that can be used by both professionals and home owners.
It was a coincidence, but not intended, that the press conference was held on the first day of the 2018 hurricane season.
The guides for good practices in reconstruction have been produced in French and English, 1,000 of each, and cover several aspects of construction, namely: metal roofs, timber frame, windows and bay windows, masonry, timber structures and awnings, as well as key points to improve safety. The guides can also be downloaded from the websites of the Collectivité and Préfecture. The aim is to recommend the correct building methods to eliminate bad or risky practices.
The guides have been six months in the making with the content produced by some 60 building experts and with help from professionals in St. Martin, St. Barths and Guadeloupe. Flyers will also be produced. The information contained in the guides can be used for the Dutch side or other islands.
“Thanks to the partnership of the services of the State, Fondation de France, the local authority and the technical expertise of the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB), whose experts have produced the content of the Guide, we can now present a technical document ready for use,” said President Daniel Gibbs in his introduction. “This is the first time that such a comprehensive educational tool has been developed.
“In the memorandum of understanding for reconstruction that the Collectivité signed with the State on 21 November 2017, it was indeed planned to adapt the urban planning rules to facilitate reconstruction and to produce a guide to advise professionals in the construction sector, but also individuals, on the right actions to apply for the reconstruction of a property. In short, this guide is a concrete response to all those who are forced to rebuild their homes without necessarily being specialists.
“Its implementation is based on the needs of the territory that completes the series of measures that the Collectivité introduced in its Urban Planning for the reconstruction of St. Martin. Of course, during these five months, the Collectivité and its partners worked tirelessly. Once the new hurricane hazard map was published by the State, the Collectivité put in place new urban planning rules that draw lessons from Hurricane Irma to enable rapid and responsible reconstruction.
As early as 2017, the Collectivité took stock of the actions to be taken, the Plan d’ Occupation des Sols (POS) was modified to facilitate the reconstruction of hotels and repairs of homes not exposed to flooding. We have therefore acted on two fronts: reconstruction and development of the territory. Also, in 2017, the Collectivité authorized and encouraged the creation of a “Safety Room” in homes and we made a modification for this purpose, to bring our urban planning rules and reconstruction needs into line. The Collectivité has also created the Town Planning Police to control and accompany individuals in the reconstruction.”
Préfet Gustin described the guides as “perfectly adapted to the local problems of construction and geographical reality of the territory.” He noted that production of the guides considered the many people who did not have house insurance and lower-income persons who have to do their own construction. “The guides are designed to work for the long term, not short term,” he said.
Asked about the perception felt on the Dutch side that reconstruction progress is hardly moving on the French side, Gibbs said if not always visible, work is going on behind the scenes.
“I don’t believe it is about insurance because both sides have the same insurance issues,” he said. “We are working on studies that need to be put in place before we make a decision on anything, to be sure that we make the right decisions. That might be what is contributing to this impression. And the fact that activities started earlier on the Dutch side with more hotels open, that is also contributing to this difference. A lot of legislation must be put in place to prevent people doing anything, anyhow or any way they want. The same rules have to apply to everyone.
“For us, this is the right way to go about it. We want to be very organised. Having said that if you go around the French side in most areas roof construction is going on. As far as reconstruction of public infrastructure is concerned we are focusing on the schools as they need to be ready for the best possible return to school in September.”
The press conference was attended by a large pool of media, local, national and regional, as well as architects and some of the experts responsible for the guides.
A further press conference will be held next week to review the preparations for the hurricane season.