Building Unit Awareness workshop held in San Pedro Town

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

The Ministry of Housing and its partners are hosting workshops throughout the municipalities in Belize, engaging local building authorities and stakeholders in the construction sector. On Wednesday, December 4th an informational session was held in San Pedro Town where the necessary process to obtain required building permits and approval was discussed.
Under the theme ‘Building Unit Awareness Series,’ the workshop included representatives from different governmental authorities such as the Department of the Environment (DOE), Central Building Authority (CBA), Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Public Health Centre, National Fire Service, and Economic Development.
Following the welcome address from Mayor Daniel Guerrero, Olga Tzec, Project Coordinator from the Building Sector Reform Project in the Ministry of Housing, introduced the different presenters. Daniel Oliveira of the CBA spoke about the importance of following procedure when applying for a building permit. He explained that they work closely with the local Building Unit, who are the first point of contact for any contractor. This local entity has the responsibility of making sure that the building project is safe and has received all the necessary permits before any work can start. “We should be the last place when applying for a building permit,” said Oliveira. “By the time you get to our offices, we need to see that you have been approved by DOE and have clearance from health, fire, and PUC departments.”
DOE’s Leonides Sosa explained that when applying for a clearance from his department, they need all legal documents stating who owns the property. If it is owned by a company, they need to see such documentation, including the list of directors of such a company. Sosa indicated that if no studies such as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required, the fee to get approval from DOE can be up to $1,000. If the development is of large scale (commercial) and depending on its location, an EIA may be required, which can cost up to $5,000. Sosa emphasized DOE’s environmental clearance alone is not enough for the project to start construction. Depending on the project, the contractor may still need to get approval for other activities associated with the building. Permits for dredging and even cutting mangroves requires approval from other entities like the Mining Unit and the Forestry Department.
Mark Usher from the Engineering Sector of the PUC cautioned developers that getting a genuine electrical design for their projects is imperative. “Electricity is dangerous; thus, you need to make sure that whosoever wires your building is licensed,” he said. Usher said that his department receives many applications each day and they try to process them within 48 hours. PUC’s approval is important to get a permit to start constructing, and the only way this will receive the green light is if it’s properly done. This was also emphasized by San Pedro’s Fire Chief Officer Gladstone Bucknor. He indicated that if the wiring is exposed, it can lead to a fire. According to him, structures within a lot should be built eight feet from each other, and in the case of commercial projects, they must count with fire preventative measures like smoke detectors and include fire extinguishers. Bucknor added that to get clearance from the fire department, all applications must be sent to the National Fire Service in Belize City.
Health Inspector Christina Sanchez briefly informed that the proper management of waste is a key factor in obtaining their approval. To get clearance from the Health Department, the plans of construction must prove that they are taking the necessary steps to promote a safe and healthy environment. Proper sewage disposal must be met, and the treatment of black waters are also a key factor. Sanchez recommended aerated septic systems in places near the coast, which, when properly installed, will not only treat the waste but prevent it from leaking into waterways.
The stakeholders present thanked the presenters for taking their time to be on the island sharing important information regarding building. Some of them indicated that it was like a refresher, as they have been following those same recommendations shared throughout the workshop.
After the presentations, Technical Manager for the San Pedro Building Unit, Anthony Usher, thanked all the stakeholders and contractors for attending. He gave a brief review of the work the Building Unit has done for the past year, deeming it challenging, but successful. He acknowledged the hard work from his team and looks forward to a productive 2020.


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