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Setting Construction Standards and Consistency in the Caribbean

The Caribbean offers a luxurious haven for vacationing, living and working. With diverse landscapes, cultures and languages, finding a standard approach to construction within the region, can present challenges to those who are looking to build. In addition to the general public and developers, it can also present governments with challenges when it comes to constructing major infrastructure improvement projects such as airports, roads and cruise ship terminals.

Many questions arise when considering a development in the Caribbean. What should our first step to construction be? How should I get drawings to help me build? What will it cost? One step, which is becoming increasingly popular, is to seek the advice of a Chartered Surveyor. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a membership of over 160,000 worldwide, with approximately 300 members in the Caribbean. Members of the RICS provide a breadth of property and construction services, including project and cost management, appraisals, land surveying and property management. The rigorous assessment and standards required to become a member of the RICS gives customers confidence in making sure they will get independent, impartial and professional property and construction related advice.

Contract management, construction cost management, procurement and understanding value are fundamental to the success of any project. A Chartered Surveyor with these core skills can help anyone with their first step to construction.

When building your house, Chartered Surveyors can help advise on property values. If financing is required, then market valuation reports from RICS Registered Valuers can provide banks with the information required to determine whether financing can be arranged. The RICS provides rules of measurement and cost estimating, making sure standards are consistent. Using best practice standards implemented worldwide and by using local market rates, projected construction costs can be determined at the very early, conceptual stages of design. As well, having someone manage the project whose expertise is in cost and value can make sure the desired balance between quality and cost is accomplished. Using a member of the RICS ensures consistency and standards.

If retailers operating across the Caribbean seek market rents and need to make decisions as to whether to purchase, refurbish or rent new premises, then Chartered Surveyors are able to assist. Operating in locations such as the Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, Aruba and Jamaica can present a challenge, especially with buildings of different ages and sizes. Understanding the local cost implications of building codes and the opportunity for duty concessions can result in very different construction costs. Feasibility and cost assessments prior to proceeding with a purchase or refurbishment project are key to success. Using the same standard contracts in each jurisdiction can help facilitate consistency in producing design drawings on time and completing construction or refurbishment projects to the desired level of quality, on time and in budget.

Governments across the Caribbean are seeking to make improvements to their schools, hospitals, roads, airports and ports. Obtaining value for money and making sure public money is spent wisely are key. The Cayman Islands recently introduced the ‘Framework for Fiscal Responsibility’ in November 2012 and made it a requirement by law to implement best practice procurement. Key steps include, preparing a business case, risk and value assessments, cost analysis, and competitive, open and transparent tendering. The Government of Aruba is currently seeking contractors to refurbish and construct an extension to their existing hospital. By following a tender procedure which is open and enables consistency in evaluation of contractor proposals, the pathway is set for a successful project.

Amidst the diversity and complexity of design and construction in the Caribbean, there are common standards provided by the RICS, which can be relied upon to ensure construction projects are managed in accordance with customers’ requirements. When looking to build your home, move your office, expand your retail outlets or improve your schools, hospitals, roads, airports and ports, then a positive first step is to employ the service of a Chartered Surveyor.

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