The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in response to recent queries on its building policy, wishes to place in context the matter of asbestos as used in the construction industry in Jamaica, and with particular reference to UDC owned buildings.
Asbestos became popular in the late 19th century with manufacturers and builders worldwide, because of its absorption capabilities, resistance to heat and chemicals as well as its strength. It comes in a variety of colours; white, brown and blue and is used in ceilings, surface insulated material, acoustics and decorative tiling, shingle roofing and elevator equipment panel, among other applications.
It is important to note that most buildings constructed in Jamaica and worldwide prior to the 1980s would have utilized asbestos. In fact, so popular was this material that Jamaica at one time had two factories manufacturing the product, one at Sucaba Pen in Old Harbour and the other in Montego Bay, St. James. Both have ceased to operate.
Studies have shown that the material only becomes dangerous when it is physically disturbed and becomes airborne, then the possibility of being inhaled into the lungs arises.
In the context of the specific building, the Kingston Craft Market, the UDC had plans to renovate the structure as part of the preparedness of Kingston to host World Cup Cricket in 2007.
As part of the due diligence, in preparing for the renovation works, the asbestos was identified in the building with plans to remove during the redevelopment process. The UDC at the time wrote to the Natural Environment and Planning of its intention to remove the asbestos from the market. The UDC further engaged the services of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to carry out the work. The terms of reference included the development and costing of a comprehensive protocol for the removal and disposal of asbestos where it would not pose a risk to persons.
This approach was adopted because the UDC as the country’s leading developer was cognizant of the existence of other structures for which this material may have to be removed, both in the public and private sectors. The discussions with the JDF and specifically the Engineering Regiment were therefore expanded to develop a protocol to deal with the specialized training, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the removal of asbestos.
Consequently, the UDC took the position to invest in the acquisition of the specialized equipment required for the removal of asbestos and which could be made available at the end of the Craft Market project to other public sector entities. Additionally, this would have seen to the development of knowledge in a public sector institution, that is the JDF Engineering Regiment, which would by then have established a very detailed protocol, beyond what currently exists.
The JDF had up to 2010 conducted very detailed analysis of the matter and in fact, at the start up of the project, the JDF personal had to be redeployed to deal with matters of national security. The Regiment has now reverted to the matter at hand and it is anticipated that works on the Craft Market will commence in the first quarter of the new financial year.
The UDC wishes to confirm from its perspective as owner of the building and from that of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) as operators, that the vendors are fully aware and were told that there is asbestos in the ceiling of the craft market. They were further advised and they understood that they would be decanted from the building once the works were due to start to ensure that there was no exposure to the material.
The UDC, notwithstanding that we would have wished to have dealt with the matter earlier, believe that the facility and the country will now benefit from the meticulous manner in which the Corporation and the JDF Engineering Regiment have been dealing with the matter of asbestos removal and disposal. The resources, competency and detailed protocols will now be readily available for benefit across the country.
The development process is an evolving one as advances in technology and science become available, the UDC is committed to being the vanguard of leading the changes for the improvement of the country.