Earlier this year, the Department of Disaster Management, in conjunction with the Town and Country Planning and Public Works Departments, took on the task of educating different sectors of the Virgin Islands business and building communities about property development and better construction methods. This was done through a series of three workshops held monthly from January to March. 

The first workshop was titled Seismic Hazards and Design. The second workshop looked at the Impact Assessments required for large-scale developments and the final workshop held in March, focused on Safe Design and Construction methods.

Director of the Department, Sharleen DaBreo said, “Though our Department is not directly linked to the real estate market, it is the Department’s mandate to ensure good preparedness and mitigation measures are taken when developing property to avoid significant impact from hazards such as landslides, storm surge, earthquakes, hurricane force winds and even flooding.” 

The workshops targeted engineers, architects, environmentalists, planners, contractors, developers, banks, insurance and real estate agents and heavy equipment operators.  Presentations and discussions were centered on building design, hazard mitigation, construction methods and development planning and safe building design as a means to achieve sustainable development.


Stemming from the workshops, a series of three videos were produced. The first, Home Owner’s Guide to Building in the Virgin Islands, looks at the process of home ownership in the Territory. The video is intended to be a guide to prospective homeowners that looks at the different stages of home ownership such as design, financing, construction, maintenance as well as implementing preparedness plans for home occupants in the event of any hazard.

"Home ownership is something that many residents seek. We want to ensure that as they go about planning for their home, they are armed with information that will help them plan for this investment as well as secure this investment as best as possible against any of the Territory’s natural threats," said DaBreo.

DaBreo said the second video, Property Development in the Virgin Islands, will be especially important given the rise of large scale property development throughout the Territory within the past six years. “The influx of interest to develop various parts of our islands has allowed our property development process to evolve. The second video helps potential investors understand the process for approval of development as well as gives detailed descriptions of environmental and social impact assessments and the need for such investigations,” DaBreo added.

The third video, Better Construction Methods looks at ways contractors and some heavy equipment operators can mitigate potential hazards’ impacts by employing better and modern techniques in building and excavation. In the video, Geotechnical Engineer Carlos Sierra shares a case study on retaining walls and measures to prevent walls from falling. Geologist Dr. James Joyce of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, shared the importance of understanding the geology of the Virgin Islands when excavating and building to mitigate seismic hazards.

The department hopes that the videos will help potential developers understand the importance of mitigation measures that are directly linked to Government’s planning and building regulations. “By understanding the importance of measures that are implemented by the Territory’s Planning and Building Authorities we hope persons realize how those measures help to protect property and thus life in the event of any hazard impact.”  DaBreo went on to say, “In the Virgin Islands we have done fairly well with our building and development practices. By considering our natural environment and its potential threats we will have a better appreciation for the need to maintain and improve building standards.”