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Puerto Rico Permits Office presents new Construction Code

By on January 24, 2019

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s Permits & Endorsements Management Office (OGPe by its Spanish acronym) presented Thursday some of the most relevant aspects of the island’s new Permits Code, which includes recommendations for the design of new infrastructure and mitigation measures for existing ones to resist hurricanes and earthquakes.

Inspector Evelyn Moya Ginés, Health and Safety manager at OGPe, presented the document adopted Nov. 15 in a public hearing held by the House Economic Development and Planning Committee, which under House Resolution 756 is investigating the Adoption and Review of the Construction Code of Puerto Rico.

Among the recommendations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Assessment Team report is the creation of micro-zoned wind maps in which the topography of Puerto Rico is considered. According to these maps, 13 percent of the island is exposed to winds of more than 187 miles per hour (mph) and which could reach 250 mph.

To questions from committee Chairman Víctor Parés Otero, Moya Ginés pointed out that the most vulnerable points are established according to wind load and topography, but also the condition of the constructions.

Also recommended was a thorough revision of the codes every three years and that maintenance protocols be established for buildings, for which the official said the 2011 code may be used if the changes are minor but must comply with the new regulations when remodeling extensively.

She added that construction costs, based on $80 per square foot, do not rise if reinforced concrete is used; however spending 0.7 percent to 1 percent more in high-risk coastal areas is recommended when building with wood or a combination of materials, and 2 percent in those same areas if only using wood.

Regarding earthquakes, she pointed out that Puerto Rico already has design parameters that are more restrictive than other jurisdictions since the 2011 code had incorporated amendments based on a study of the island’s seismic history. However, in the revision and update of those regulations, an increase in construction costs of 0.04 percent was recommended specifically to reinforce building foundations.

She said the regulations were adopted so there was a single body of law applicable to reconstruction projects using FEMA funds, which require 2018 codes. The 2011 code may be used in other projects for up to six months after the new regulation was adopted.

Moya Ginés emphasized that with the adoption of the new regulations, taken from the International Code Council (ICC) of 2018, “we are on a par with the latest guidelines in relation to construction worldwide because, besides Puerto Rico, only 12 countries have adopted these regulations.”

A public education campaign will be conducted so people can demand that their constructions comply with the code.

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