“An embarrassment to our country.”
That’s how Prof Winston Suite, a civil engineer who works at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Management and Civil Infrastructure Systems Group described Tuesday’s leaks in the roof of the Red House following heavy and persistent showers.
Two leaks were the discovered-the main one being around the skylight in the rotunda.
A broken rubber seal on the aluminium flashing in the skylight was identified as the source of the problem.
The newly restored $441 million Red House reopened last Friday in a gala ceremony which was attended by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who in a statement in the House of Representatives on Monday, Rowley released all the expenditure figures on the Red House restoration project.
Roofing and associated carpentry works undertaken by Construction Services and Supplies Ltd were priced at $20.1 million.
Rowley said what exists now on the roof “is not rust (as some would like it to be) but is newly installed high-quality copper roofing.”
In a telephone interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Suite said to find leaks in the historic building “is a bit embarrassing for the client, (UDeCOTT). The contractor should be aware that this could be very embarrassing for everybody internationally etcetera looking on at the project. So he has put us in that position.”
The senior academic said while some people have been blaming the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) – the project manager for what happened, “they are not at fault. The person who is at fault for defects in the work is the contractor. And nobody is accusing the contractor up to now. I believe the contractor should be getting the criticism in the media.”
He believes the contractor owes a public apology to UDeCOTT, Government and by extension the population.
“I feel strongly about this. This is a high profile project so it’s even more sensitive.”
When a roof is repaired in the dry season, Suite said work has to be double and triple checked to identify problems before the rainy season begins.
Suite said the contractor could have done a test run on the roof before the reopening ceremony to ensure all was well.
“He could have taken a hose with water and focus water on the roof to make sure it not leaking because if it leaks there is the embarrassment for both him…for the client… and the public and for the citizens of Trinidad.”
For years, he said workmen and contractors have failed to pay attention to the quality of roofs built in the private and public sectors.
“This is an area of weakness in the engineering and construction practice in Trinidad,” said Suite who taught civil engineer and served as a contractor for seven years.
Giving an update on the leak, Udecott’s chairman Noel Garcia said “an investigation is completed. They (contractor) have come up with a solution and they are going to implement that solution to bring an end to any possibility of further leaks.”
He provided no further details.
UDeCOTT had promised that the contractors will have the matter rectified as it falls within the defect liability period of one year and will be fixed at no additional costs.
From 8 am yesterday, a scaffolding was erected on the eastern roof of the Red House, opposite Woodford Square, as a crew was seen examining the roof in the blistering sun.
A representative of Guapo based Construction Services and Supplies Ltd when contacted by Guardian Media on their business phone yesterday said she had “no comment.”