ABOUT TIME: New building permit system praised as “game changer” but architect laments it took so long

ABOUT TIME: New building permit system praised as “game changer” but architect laments it took so long
(FILE PHOTO)

“This is something we have been agitating for two decades”

Bannister says system will “revolutionize” building permit process and improve ease of doing business

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Institute of Bahamian Architects (IBA) President Gustavus Ferguson said yesterday that the Electronic Permit Review and Inspection System (EPRIS) can be a “game changer” and help boost economic activity.

However, he lamented that this nation was “far behind” its regional counterparts in implementing such a system.

“It certainly can be a game changer. We have expressed that sentiment on numerous occasions over the years,” said Ferguson.

“This is something we have been agitating for two decades. We look forward to its implementation. When it is launched, you will see us celebrate.

“We could have been ahead of the game in terms of our regional counterparts and could have been one of the first countries regionally to implement such a system. Right now, we are behind our counterparts.

“We should have seen an uptick in projects coming to fruition. We have had many projects designed, gone through feasibility studies and submitted for approval, only to end there.”

Ferguson noted that architects have also called for third party inspections to allow industry professionals within the private sector to review drawings for approval and provide inspections during construction. He said there have also been recommendations to expedite applications where environmental and other approvals are already in place.

 

Revolutionary

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, while addressing an internal stakeholders presentation yesterday, said the EPRIS, which will go live in six months, will revolutionize the processing of building permits in the country.

Desmond Bannister.

“It is anticipated that the time it takes to have a permit issued by my ministry will be significantly reduced, and the ability for applicants or their agents to track the progress of their applications would be greatly enhanced,” Bannister said.

“The current time that it takes to process a building permit is estimated to be on average 55 to 75 days; that’s approximately eight to 10 weeks. That’s a significantly long time when a project needs to move forward and other approvals must be obtained from various ministries and agencies.”

According to Bannister EPRIS will allow for all of the agencies involved in the building permit process to review drawings concurrently, which is expected to reduce the processing time of residential applications to 15 days or two weeks; and commercial applications to 30 days or one month on average.

Bannister noted that this nation ranked 77th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2020 on “Dealing with Construction Permits”.

“This anticipated reduction in the time it takes to receive a building permit is anticipated to improve our ranking significantly in this area, and thus result in greater economic activity,” he said.

“It is foreshadowed that as construction starts to increase, the enhanced resulting economic activity would mean more construction jobs and investment opportunities being made available in the country.”

Six companies had been issued requests for proposals to provide a solution for the EPRIS system, and bids were returned from three companies —Tyler Technologies, Crimson Logic and Bahamas Business Solutions Ltd in March 2019, with Tyler Technologies ultimately winning the contract valued at $1.5 million.

Although Bannister said the program had been planned from years ago, he noted that implementation of the initiative was delayed due to financial setbacks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ravages of Hurricane Dorian.

Buildings Control Officer Brent Ferguson noted there is a backlog of building permit applications, with the department receiving 1,000 to 1,500 applications a year.