EDITORIAL – Building trust in our booming construction industry

Cayman’s new Builders Law will raise the standard of professionalism in our expanding construction sector, aligning our jurisdiction with other venues that insist on best practices in this critical industry.

It is a well-reasoned and well-timed effort that will protect consumers from shoddy workmanship, ensure that contractors are insured against potential losses and confirm that they are providing mandated benefits to their workers. It will ensure that qualified, reputable contractors are not outbid by shady operators who cut corners to increase margins, or who bid on projects they have no hope of completing on time and within budget.

Generally, this editorial board is reluctant to advocate expanding government’s involvement in the private sector, but in this instance the need is clear. As Builders Board member Dave Johnston recently told the Compass, “Twenty years ago, you could do contracts on a handshake, but times have changed and it does not work anymore. We have gone from five, six, seven to 10 stories and it requires qualified and experienced individuals with the proper qualifications.”

Under the law, contractors and construction companies must register in one of five categories: General contractor, building contractor, residential contractor, civil engineering contractor or trade contractor – each qualified to work on projects of a specific type and scale.

This vetting process will make it easier for clients and developers to choose a qualified contractor. A residential contractor, for example, will be cleared to construct, renovate, repair or extend a building of up to four dwelling units, no more than three stories tall. A general contractor will have permission to perform any type of construction apart from  roads, bridges, docks, utilities or other infrastructure projects that require the expertise of a civil engineer.

The 10-member Builders Board, under the capable direction of its highly regarded Chairman Heber Arch, will review the applications and supporting documentation to determine whether the contractor has the skills and competencies to perform work within a certain category, that he has demonstrated “financial responsibility and professional reputation,” carries adequate liability insurance and complies with relevant labor laws.

The Board urges all contractors, construction and trade companies that have not yet registered to complete and submit their applications soon. Those who fail to register may be unable to secure necessary building permits after the end of July.

Construction is booming in Cayman. At a recent industry roundtable hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, most of the 30 firms participating said they planned to expand local operations this year. Their optimism was tempered only by concerns over bureaucracy and the cost of doing business.

Indeed, there are impediments to progress that should be addressed, including the often lengthy (and often maddening) planning approval processes. Whenever feasible, planning approvals need to be expedited and executed with a lack of bureaucratic roadblocks and an abundance of common sense.

By identifying and classifying contractors’ qualifications, the Builders Law should actually streamline major projects, boosting industry standards to reflect Cayman’s rapidly rising skyline.

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