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The Water's Edge

Sighting the Site – Building a home, whether it’s your first or second, is an exciting process. From the moment you identified potential sites to the day you move in, a plethora of decisions have to be made. Financial and red tape issues that need to be overcome are hopefully overshadowed by the sheer desire to create that special place for you and your family. And, while you’ve been looking for that special lot to build your dream, you’ve probably been driving around with a real estate professional; or perhaps it was a friend who knew of a nice piece of land. Our hilly Virgin terrain and ever changing views make for some of the most beautiful home sites in the world.

However, envisioning the sights and views of your new home site is a daunting task when the lot you see is still covered with trees brush and bush. Site planning is often further complicated by the existence of great boulders. Architects often work hand in hand with geotechnical and structural engineers to ensure that what they design for you is able to fit both on your site and be sound. As we live in a Seismic 4 region (the highest earth quake activity) some extra requirements are put upon the foundation beams and footings. Luckily, most of the seismic activity here is neither felt nor causes visible structural damage.  Putting together a good team of specialists ahead of construction is a very valuable investment, as it assures you that all these issues have been looked at before the first shovel hits the soil.

Whilst a little “settling of the structures” does not necessarily immediately adversely impact houses and cisterns, most modern pools are a little more susceptible to “tipping.” The beautiful “infinite horizon” or “vanishing edge” pools rely on exceptionally accurate hydraulics as well as on very tight tolerances on setting levels.  Using an accuracy of 1/32” is the difference between a perfect “disappearing edge” and an edge with dry spots. If, due to “building settling,” the floor of your living room tilts by just an 1/8”, it may not even cause a marble to roll; however, a 1/8” tilt under your pool may kill the effect of the “vanishing” part of the edge.

Of all considerations that go into a building a house, sound engineering and the proper use of materials and finishes are possibly the two foremost in importance. They ensure that your investment is safeguarded and should underlie every other decision you make.  Sadly, it’s the least “fun” aspect of the creating your dream home. We are fortunate that, throughout the construction industry in the BVI, we have professionals available to help you with these issues. The building authorities here use sound judgment and have started construction schools and courses to further enhance the awareness among builders of the advantages to following stringent codes and well thought out guidelines. Where the sight of a building inspector or structural engineer may send shivers down many a builder’s spine, the large majority of construction specialists in the BVI actually welcome such visits as an assurance of the quality of their work!

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