Sinking buildings force new policy for city construction

With some new mid-rise buildings sinking due to poor foundation works in Georgetown, the City Engineer’s Department has made it mandatory for geo-technical reports to be submitted before construction can take place.

City Engineer Colvern Venture told Stabroek News in a telephone interview last week that as of January 1, 2014, persons desirous of constructing buildings three storeys or higher have to submit a technical report along with a foundation design to the council. Venture explained that before, only a foundation design was submitted.

According to the engineer, the technical design is one aspect of the report, while the type of foundation to be used is the second aspect.

This building at Joseph Pollydore Street and Mandela Avenue has raised several questions after it was discovered that no piles were driven for its foundation. Subsequently, the ground floor was knocked out in order for the piles to be driven.
This building at Joseph Pollydore Street and Mandela Avenue has raised several questions after it was discovered that no piles were driven for its foundation. Subsequently, the ground floor was knocked out in order for the piles to be driven.

Asked if visits are done to ascertain if buildings comply with the rules and regulations, Venture stated that the onus is on the owner of the building to be properly guided and to ensure the safety of the building and those persons working on the building.

Venture further stated that the City Engineer’s Department does not have the facilities to carry out analyses, and these are done by other agencies within Guyana.

He also informed that changes in the use of buildings, such as a conversion from a residence to offices, could be a contributing factor to buildings that are sinking. A thorough analysis needs to be done, he said.

A source told this newspaper that in the construction of high buildings, driving piles is of great importance, as it makes for a very strong foundation and underground structural base that supports the building. The source added that by driving and embedding piles of wood, concrete or steel into the soil of the ground, contractors are able to provide a strong support to the building structure at the foundation level.

A three-storey building at the corner of North Road and Oronoque Street is being demolished after it was only recently discovered that the building was sinking. “The building doesn’t have any piles so the building is sinking. We decided to take it down for the safety of citizens,” the source said.

Recently, several persons have raised alarm over a similar four-storey building that is being constructed at Joseph Pollydore Street and Mandela Avenue.

City Hall Public Relations Officer Royston King, in an invited comment, said that he has been informed that the sinking building has shown signs of a failing foundation and that there are now attempts to do remedial works to correct the situation. He said the City Council is particularly concerned, about not only the health and safety of those persons working on the building, but also passersby and the public.

“That is why we are imploring on contractors and builders to secure the advice of an engineer before they commence building work in the city of Georgetown,” he said.

King stated that of recent, the City Engineer’s Department has been requesting, among other things, a geo-technical report. This report he said, will show the condition of the soil based on certain technical tests carried out and will show what works need to be done with respect to the foundation works in particular.

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