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The building materials used when building affects the extent of damage sustained by infrastructure during and after natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and floods.  

Concrete

Reinforced concrete is one of the most practical and preferred building material in the world. Why? Because it has the ability to regulate the strength required at specific points within a structure, and it can be used at a relatively low cost.  Properly designed concrete structures will resist hurricane force winds and can be made to resist earthquakes. Compared to wooden construction, it provides superior fire resistance, and can gain strength over time.  Concrete structures can also stand against sea swells and intense waves along shore lines and floods. It is one of the most durable building materials.  

Timber

Under proper conditions, wood provides excellent, lasting performance.  However, it also faces several potential threats to service life, including fungal activity due to increased levels of moisture. It is also buoyant and this makes timber structures get swept away at high water levels as in floods and sea swells. Albeit timber structures can withstand earthquakes and hurricane force winds once they are well built.  

In earthquakes, timber structures have the ability to permit high levels of displacement in the structure due to its flexible joints.  These joints dampen the horizontal forces generated, while sustaining only minimal damage.  Also, since the forces acting on the structure in an earthquake are directly related to its self-weight, lighter materials like wood would be best.

Steel Frame

The steel framed structure is widely used in the construction industry due to steel’s physical properties such as strength, malleability and its ability to be prefabricated. In terms of the ease of erection and overall durability of such structure, these properties make it one of the best materials for construction, but also one of the most expensive materials and methods in the industry.  Like reinforced concrete, it can be designed to withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.

These materials can be utilized on their own or in combination to address the weakness of one, to fit within the budgetary allowance, or to make the structure’s design more interesting.

The prevalence and impact of natural hazards means that special attention should be made in building designs and materials and in employing the right technical professional to lessen tragic loss to property and life. 

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It is not economically viable to design an earthquake, hurricane or flood proof building which is guaranteed to resist all possible scenarios.  However, it is possible during your design and construction process to select the appropriate materials (to be discussed in the next article) and to incorporate a number of disaster resistant features by applying engineering techniques, which would increase enormously the chances of survival of both buildings and their occupants.

Let us start with the geometry (shape of configuration) of a building as it is of equal importance as the maintenance of the integrity of the building envelope which we will discuss a little later in this article.  The geometry of a building is a crucial issue that should be addressed at the conceptual stages of a building project since it affects how well the building can resist natural disasters. Of particular concern are hurricanes and earthquakes; earthquakes to a lesser extent.

We therefore make the following recommendations for light weight structures of two stories or less:

A symmetrical building shape and arrangement of openings would result in a more balanced distribution of forces in the structure.

To withstand higher wind forces lightweight roofs should be gently sloping, no less than 20 degrees steep, a hipped shape (sloping in four directions) rather than a gable (sloping in two directions) or a single pitch shape.

Further improvements in wind resistance to lightweight roofs can be achieved with reduced overhangs at the eaves. The total elimination of overhangs to introduce a parapet wall would improve the roofs performance.

Shading of doors and windows from the elements may be achieved by the use of canopies separate from the main roof.

Where existing buildings are of unfavorable shape, making them invulnerable to hurricanes would include protecting windows and external doors. Significant attention should also be given to strengthen the building envelope as a result of the higher wind forces generated by the unfavorable building geometry.

When planning renovation projects, designers should consider opportunities to upgrade both the roof structure and its covering to at least the minimum building regulation standard for safe buildings.

As mentioned above, maintaining the integrity of the building’s envelope, including roofs and windows is very important and can be regarded as the key strategy to protecting a building from high winds caused by hurricanes.  It is imperative that we design structures to withstand the expected lateral and uplift forces. For example,

  • Roof trusses and gables must be braced;
  • Hurricane straps must be used to strengthen the connection between the roof and walls;
  • Doors and windows must be protected by covering and/or bracing.

Further, building designs can be influenced by the level of seismic resistance desired.  This ranges from the prevention of non-structural damage in frequent minor ground shaking to the prevention of structural damage and even avoidance of collapse or serious damage in rare major ground shaking.  These performance objectives can be accomplished through the introduction of structural components such as shear walls, braced frames, movement resisting frames, diaphragms, base isolation and bracing of non-structural components.

Though these suggestions seem to imply limiting creative architectural expressions, advances in technique, equipment and material do permit straying from them safely. This does require the conscious involvement of architects and engineers to achieve beautiful and safe construction which is essential in Dominica.

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Many times paint is not a must for sprucing up an unsightly wall. If you’re otherwise happy with the color and condition of your walls, you don’t have to paint them. Washing walls is by far the cheaper alternative, and with helpful tips, it’s really very easy.



Use a sponge or a white rag. Many rags are dyed and are not color safe which usually results in discoloration of the paint.



To prevent water from running down your arms use a terry cloth wristband or fasten rolled washcloths around your wrist with either a pin or rubber band.



To avoid having to constantly change the water because of excess dirt, use two separate containers for the cleaning solution and another for plain water. 



Do not use any strong or concentrated bleach based solution which may damage the paint. Some dish soap/liquid in some warm water or baking soda applied to the sponge/cloth is sufficient. Be sure to rinse out the wall since most cleaning solutions have chemicals that may streak the paint.



Begin at the top and go down since dirty water from above runs down the wall as you clean.


Place old rags or towels along the base of the wall to avoid the floor getting too wet.

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The traditional approach by home owners to building a home is to develop an idea or plan of what they want their home to look like, then hire a contractor to execute the plan. 

 

Building a home calls for a lot more than just that.  A significant amount of time, financial and material resources go into a construction project.  Considering the scarcity of these resources, their proper management is crucial.

 

The effective management of resources when constructing a home can be a full time, demanding and stressful job, especially with the hectic schedule that governs the lives of homeowners. 

 

A common component of building a home is selecting the right contractors.  Some contractors will provide excellent service and will need little or no supervision while others will need constant supervision and guidance.  How do you know which contractor you can entrust with your project, with minimal stress and little hassle?  Are you familiar with construction terms, documents, processes and materials necessary to   successfully complete a construction project? 

 

The Project/Construction Manager offers a homeowner considerable relief from the stress and hassle of managing their home construction.  Project/Construction Managers, as well as many homeowners today, understand that building a home isn’t just a huge financial investment, it’s also a great investment emotionally and because of that the practice of project management has become very important and indispensible. 

 

The key responsibility of a Project/ Construction Manager is to accomplish the objectives of the project.  He/she understands that no two customer’s expectations are the same but their common concerns are Cost, Time, Quality and Scope.

 

Project Cost – Expenses incurred for labour, material, equipment, services, utilities etc.

 

Project Time –The time frame analyzed and developed for the completion of a project or deliverable.

 

Project Quality – The totality of features and characteristics of the project at completion that satisfies stated or implied client need and is fit for the purpose for which the project was implemented.

 

Project Scope – What the project is supposed to accomplish and the budget of both time and money that has been created to achieve these objectives.

 

As a representative of the owner’s interest Project Managers bear ultimate responsibility for ensuring that key components of the project are efficiently handled. 

 

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.  Although many construction managers work from a main office, they spend a lot of time on the field at the construction site where they monitor the project and make daily decisions about construction activities. 

 

They work in support of the homeowner to reduce total cost and ensure the best quality of work.  If nothing else, they can provide the homeowner with much needed peace of mind.

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The built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity ranging in scale from personal shelters to neighborhoods to the large-scale civic surroundings.  Most of where we live is man-made – from the homes and apartments we live in, to the commercial buildings we work in, to the roads and bridges we traverse on daily.

 

People place a great amount of financial, physical and emotional investments in the maintenance of their heritage and improvement of infrastructure upon which they depend on for a civilized existence.  In order for us to protect and preserve our heritage and investments we must first pride in our local areas and environment.  We should focus on methods which embrace reduction in cost through efficient use of resources (energy, waste, water). We should provide environments that contribute to our physical and mental health and enhance creativity and productivity.  Our built environment also needs to be flexible and adaptable to future uses, and be resilient to cope with local effects of climate change.

 

Because of mounting economic pressures and changing environmental conditions over the years, practices within the built environment have evolved.  Now, great emphasis is placed on creating a sustainable built environment, through design, construction and management, which will enable all people to live well, within environmental limits.

 

Many institutions have been established to give the opportunity to not only construct feasible structures but also create surroundings that will preserve our environment and our way of life.  These organizations provide consulting services which is often free to the built environment market. They also assist in the design and implementation of programs, policies, and strategies to improve building and infrastructure performance for a broad range of clients including individuals, agencies, local governments, and corporate and institutional owners of real estate. They also help individuals and businesses deal with the risks inherent in the built environment activities.

 

We spend all of our lives within the built environment and some of us make no provisions for our generations to come.  Preserving the built environment started with persons before us and should continue with us.  

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As an employer or business owner have you taken the time to consider how the layout of your office affects your employee productivity and work experience? Having an effective office layout enables productivity, and also makes workflow efficient. Different office layouts work best with different types of businesses or organizations. If you are searching for a new office space or planning on remodeling your existing space this article will help you learn more about the different types of office layouts and their functions.

Open Plan Office Layout  

The open office layout’s main benefit is that it encourages communication and teamwork. Due to the lack of interior walls / barriers decisions tend to be made faster which results in swift action and increased productivity. Offices with this layout are ideal for fast paced business and businesses with a flat organizational hierarch. Open plan office layouts also allow employers to give more attention to their employees, and can help employees develop better relationships with their employers as well as their coworkers. The disadvantages of this layout is that it lends itself to a lot of distraction; it offers very little privacy and the office can get very noisy.

Private / Closed Office Layout

The private / closed office layout works best for businesses where confidentiality is extremely important (such as law offices). Thus employees would need solitude to take private phone calls, or meet individually with clients. The main drawback to using this layout is that it does not offer the same level of effective communication as the other office layouts. It is also more costly. For one, you would need a larger office space than with an open layout and more artificial lighting and cooling would be needed to maintain a conducive working environment.

Cubicle Office Layout

Cubicles use a series of partitions allowing workers the benefits of a private / closed office layout (privacy, limited distractions, decreased noise levels), while offering an adequate level of openness. Cubicles do not take up as much floor space as private offices. They are also beneficial to companies that require confidentiality and those that do not have the budget to offer everyone a private office. Similar to the private / closed office layout cubicles offer limited natural light. Using glass panels will allow more natural light to come in and allows the space to appear larger. Half partitions which are like cubicles (except the walls only go halfway up) can also be useful, however they offer less privacy.

Team Enclosures

Team enclosures offers a private area for teams working on a single project and those who work on similar projects. This layout allows increased communication and encourages cooperation between team members while minimizing external distractions. This layout is beneficial to organizations and businesses such as advertisement agencies, news offices, or architectural and engineering firms. 

 

Remember, with many people spending more time at work than they do at home, choosing the right office layout is an important decision to make not only for you but for your employees as well. Also, in many cases, it may make sense to have a variety of different layouts in one office space.

 

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Whether you are planning on selling your home or you are simply interested in updating your home for your personal enjoyment consider implementing these home improvement tips that will increase the market value of your property.

  • Ensure that your home’s exterior is appealing and inviting. Planting trees or a flower garden, keeping a well maintained lawn, and keeping shrubs and bushes pruned are simple ways to improve your homes curb appeal. In addition, including a focal point such as a well-designed walkway can add major property value.


  • Utilize excess yard space by including outdoor living spaces such as a deck, patio, porch, pergola etc. to increase the value of your property. Investing in outdoor spaces provides the opportunity for more outdoor activities. This adds resale value to your property. Home-buyers tend to be more interested in homes that offers this feature.


  • Adding an additional bathroom may be the best home improvement decision you can make. Having an additional bathroom not only increases your home’s resale value, but it also provides the home with greater functionality.


  • Consider updating your home’s décor by replacing your old fixtures with new updated ones or adding modern fixtures such as moldings and chair rails that give the interior a crisp design.


  • Doing small repairs may seem insignificant, but by maintaining and fixing the small things it gives the impression that your home has been well cared for over the years. Take a walk around the property and take note of what is broken and can easily be repaired. Also, staying on top of maintenance now provides the benefit of eliminating issues before they become too problematic.


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From original paintings to stunning prints, including works of art in the home is one of the best methods of personalizing your space. Here are a few tips that you can use to both artistically and effectively incorporate art in your home:

  • One of the basic principles of interior design is that every room needs a focal point. Walk into the room and notice the first place your eyes land. This is ideally the perfect location for a piece of statement artwork. Whatever piece is chosen should help the eye connect all the pieces in the room while creating a unifying statement in your overall design.


  • When you are hanging art on your walls you want to ensure that they are positioned at eye level. Whether you are hanging multiple pieces in columns or rows you should keep this in mind and hang the lowest piece at eye level. This will help create a unified design statement. Also, if you have a large collection of artwork consider splitting the pieces across different rooms.


  • Ensure that you fill the space you have with the right scale of artwork. A small and subtle piece can become lost on a large wall while a large bold piece will feel constricted if not given space to breathe. Hang a big bold statement piece on a large empty wall, this will make the room feel uncluttered and will bring more focus and attention to the artwork.


  • Think of how the colors of the artwork will affect the mood in the different rooms. A calming grey art piece would be ideal for the bedroom while yellow which is a more welcoming and cheerful color would be perfect for the living room.


  • It is helpful to note that you can use your artwork to imitate the life of the room. For example, artwork of food is best used in the kitchen while a family portrait or a happy group of friends would work well in the living room. The subject of the artwork is also a way of tying the pieces in the room together. Using animal prints for example fits well with organic or botanical imagery.


With all this in mind you should also remember that when you decide what piece you should use or where to hang art in your home there are no rules. While these tips aid in creating a more aesthetically pleasing and well-designed environment, bringing art into your home is personal. Above all else the choices you make should bring you joy.

 

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As part of the Millenia Architects Guiding Light Initiative launched in June of 2018, a scholarship for tuition covering a one-year Architecture Associates degree program at the Dominica State College was awarded to Ms. Nerrisa George of Calibishie.  

 

“The Millenia Group, comprising of Millenia Architects, Sorell Consulting Ltd., Kaliber Construction & Homes, and Millenia Realty, believes that sustainable development goes far beyond bricks and mortar that is why we have decided to invest in the development of the human resource that is needed to create a resilient economy for decades to come.” – Executive Director of the Millenia Group, Alistair Grell.

 

This initiative has also benefited two other young people so far.  The intern who went through our six (6) months internship last year has since been employed as a permanent member of our team.  Also, there is one person currently participating in on-the-job training and mentorship from our team.

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