Two of the ten random people interviewed by this newspaper for this week’s ‘What the People Say’ column on the ‘International Building Expo’ which was held over the weekend at the Guyana National Stadium Providence expressed concern that there were too few contractors and not enough building materials on display.
“It is a good initiative, but I was expecting to see more building persons [contractors]. The information we are getting from the banks is good. They have great interest rates. They are catering for the poor and working class. But some of the houses, the prices are just too extravagant,” one person said. The second person stated, “I thought it would have been more about building materials. This does not look like a building expo to me. I think a lot of companies should have come on board and showcased materials, like cement, etc. To me, it is just a show. I suggest all the contractors and so come on board and be on exhibit here for interaction. All I am seeing is bars with drinks, play area, a few houses and so.”
In addition, from our own observation, there was music, a fashion display and trinkets on sale – attractions which are more in keeping with a show, as the commentator said above, or a funfair.
The Building Expo had several advantages. Visitors were pleased that the Ministry of Housing and Water had set up its ‘one stop shop’ activity, which it had previously taken to various areas around the country. The ‘one stop shop’ allows for potential homeowners to apply and be interviewed by ministry officials immediately, a process that previously took months. Those who qualified would then be able to visit the banking booths set up nearby and seek advice, make queries or make applications for homebuilding loans.
There were complete houses on display for various prices so that persons could compare between buying and building and decide which they would go for based on what they could afford.
What was missing were the experts to advise as to what projects a cash-strapped potential homeowner or an existing one seeking to make renovations/additions might want to take on as DIY (do it yourself), and what absolutely must be contracted out. There was no sign of the small-time, neighbourhood builders, plumbers, painters to offer advice on the cost effectiveness of say tin gutters as opposed to PVC, or Perspex ceiling tiles as opposed to wood. What of mini-seminars explaining the benefits of say, using wood or concrete or claybricks (if these are even available), depending on where the person’s house lot is situated? Why weren’t such events facilitated?
The homes on display were aesthetically pleasing, but were they/would they be built to also take the best advantage of natural light and cooling?
In addition, a true building exposition should offer answers to questions such as: What if someone wanted to build a home that would use alternative energy? Should it be built to different specifications than the house that would be attached to the national electricity grid?
Should security grillwork be placed on the inside of doors and windows or on the outside? Which is safer and why?
After a person has built his/her home how would he/she attain a yard that looks close to the landscaped wonder portrayed in photographs accompanying advertisements? What would be the most cost effective way to do this? (None of the ads for the building expo showed the true picture of the tangled jungle or muddied plot a new homeowner is faced with.)
The above questions are not the only ones potential homeowners have. But if the just-concluded expo provided answers to those then it would have served its purpose and the music, drinks, food, games, face painting and other attractions might be excused as distractions for children while their parents made important housing decisions.
Finally, whoever had the bright idea to do a display of fashion should do a rethink. Models in cotton cutout dresses with painted swatches attached have no place at a building expo, no matter how attractive they are. Consider what exactly it is you’re selling and find a more effective way of displaying your product. There is a time and a place for everything.