Last update: 09-Dec-2013 6:43 pm
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Couva children’s hospital to stay at proposed site
The $1.5 billion Couva children’s hospital will be constructed at its present location, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal have said. The ministers made the declaration yesterday after what they described as two hours of “intense discussions” with seismic experts and structural engineers, who had raised concerns over their choice of location for the hospital.
The high-level meeting was called after the T&T Guardian exclusively highlighted objections to the hospital’s location at Preysal, Couva, because it is being constructed close to the Central Range earthquake fault line. Addressing reporters at the end of the meeting, which was held at the Ministry of Housing, South Quay, Port-of-Spain, Khan said: “The hospital will be going forward. It is just a matter of looking at where you need to put anything extra into the design and so on.”
The meeting, which began at 1 pm, saw presentations from UWI Seismic Research Centre seismologist Dr Joan Latchman and her team, as well as National Building Code Committee chairman Shyankaran Lalla and structural engineers. Also on hand for the meeting was Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) chairman Jearlean John and Shanghai Construction officials, who are constructing the hospital.
Khan said yesterday’s discussions centred around design specifications of the hospital and the probability of an earthquake occurring, as opposed to the hospital’s present location. He said no recommendation for the project to be halted or relocated was made. “It came out in the discussions that there was no desire or no need to stop the building of the hospital,” he said. “What the concerns were—the stability of the hospital in the event of a 7.0 earthquake magnitude as what occurred in Haiti and different places.”
The minister said the designers of the hospital, HKS Inc, indicated that there were “1,700 piles (heavy beams) in the hospital itself and 700 in the retaining walls, which make it an extremely stable structure as compared to other structures.” He said, however, that a team would be formed with officials of the ministries of Health and Housin, the scientific groups who attended the meeting and the architects of HKS to “collaborate with sharing of knowledge and any new ideas.”
Khan said coming out of the discussions was “the need to have constant analysis of the health structures in the country in the event of a major earthquake and a disaster.” Moonilal, meanwhile, expressed confidence in the design of the structural integrity of the building and the geotechnical work that was conducted.“We want to bring certainty that the hospital will be standing and notwithstanding the very strong scientific information and so on, we are convinced of the work that was done,” he said.
The minister said the concerns raised over the location were “more of a media issue, I believe.” He said the ministries were “extremely open to the scientific information that must be factored into policy making at the political level, but also at the design and technical and engineering levels.” Moonilal said while other buildings could be troubled in the area in the event of an earthquake, “we are sure that whatever happens, the hospital will be standing and I think that is where everyone is happy.”
He said no changes had to be made to the design. “The foundation is there already that caters for what we had a debate on today (yesterday.) It’s not so much the structure of the building but probability in terms of an earthquake, whether it is in 500 years, 2,500 years,” he said. Lalla, speaking briefly with reporters afterwards, said the engineering community was happy to sit with the ministers, who “allayed their fears with regards to the adherence to building codes for the building.”
He added that based on the information shared yesterday, the hospital was being “built to the highest standards of the seismic codes and we are happy to note that.” Lalla said he was pleased to note that the hospital was not being built on the fault line, but six kilometres away.
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