Making Building Codes Work

CAA online event considers the role of national building codes in the context of sustainable development


The development, implementation and enforcement of effective building code is fundamental to the delivery of a built environment which is inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. The  CAA hosted an online event on 12 March 2024 to learn about the work that has been undertaken to strengthen National Building Codes among Pacific Island nations and throughout the Caribbean. It also sought to identify key barriers and enablers to the successful design and implementation of National Building Code, particularly among Small Island States which are in the forefront of climate change.


The event included contributions from the following:

  • Mr Timothy Stats, Technical Assistance Officer, Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), Fiji
  • Ms Anne Milbank, Coordinator of the Samoan National Building Code while Assistant CEO of the Buildings Division, Ministry of Works, Transport & Infrastructure, Samoa
  • Mr Andrew Pene, Director Buildings & Government Architect, Fiji, Ministry for Public Works, Meteorological Services & Transport, Fiji
  • Dr Winston McCalla, Former Assistant Attorney General and former Director of Legal Reform, Jamaica
  • Dr Maria Mousmouti, Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Mr Robert Lewis-Lettington, Chief of the Land, Housing and Shelter section and former Chief of Urban Legislation, UN-Habitat, Kenya
  • Mr Jonathan Duwyn, Programme Manager, Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, France
  • Mr George Arabbu Ndege, Vice President, Architectural Association of Kenya

Event Outline

  1. National Building Codes in the Pacific. Tim Stats provided an overview of the regional diagnostic study on the application of National Building Codes in the Pacific, undertaken by the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), including lessons learnt.
  2. Samoan perspective. Anne Milbank focused on some of the issues associated with development of the new Samoan National Building Code, adopted by the Government in 2017
  3. Fiji perspective. Andrew Pene focused on the work associated with development of the new draft National Building Code, which is awaiting parliamentary approval.
  4. Caribbean perspective. Winston McCalla provided an overview of some of the issues associated with the development of national building codes in the Caribbean
  5. How to fix it. Maria Mousmouti summarised some of the key challenges associated with the development of effective building codes.
  6. Panel discussion and Q&A. Following a series of short framing presentations, the panel responded to a series of questions from the moderator and participants.
CAA online event on Making Building Codes Work

Lessons learnt

The following were among an extensive list of lessons learnt during the course of the event:

  • Remember that Building codes are intended to set minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings, to protect people’s health safety and welfare
  • But evidence shows that they are failing to deliver their intended purpose in a number of Commonwealth countries, and are failing the most vulnerable members of society, especially the urban poor, whose need is greatest
  • Building codes need to be carefully calibrated to cater for the prevailing context and compliance needs to be affordable if the codes are to be deliverable, or else some form of incentivisation/support may be required
  • Today, building codes have a critically important role to play in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation, yet many codes are failing to address these issues adequately
  • Building codes need to be regularly reviewed to keep abreast of changing circumstances such as the introduction of different building typologies and bio-based materials together with changing standards etc.
  • Regulatory Impact Assessments provide a framework for developing building code while also ensuring a more transparent process throughout the decision-making process, but should not be regarded as merely a tick-box exercise
  • Building code needs to work together with related legislation such a planning, health & safety etc.
  • The development of successful building code involves a range of stakeholders including technical experts, parliamentarians, legal experts etc all of whom have a critically important role to play.
  • The implementation of successful building code involves a range of important steps including the preparation of designs, design review, site inspection and certification. Failure in any one of these steps risks undermining the entire process.
  • Central Government needs the political will to deliver successful building code while local government require both the resources and the skills to do so.
  • The public should be alerted to the risks associated with the use of unqualified practitioners and/or poor-quality contractors, and the benefits of using qualified built environment professionals such as architects, engineers and planners.