Belizean builders have grown accustomed to cement from Central America – whether it’s Cemento Maya from Mexico, Cessa from El Salvador or Bijao from Honduras. Indeed, Belize’s post – modern construction boom was driven by materials these companies. But now there’s a new players on the market – and what makes it news is that it’s a product not from Central America, but from Jamaica – imported into Belize cheaper because it enjoys the Caricom Single Market and Economy tariff – which is lower for goods form the Caribbean.
But will Belizeans embrace. Like we said, all those cement houses are built by Central American Brands. But, the importer thinks so, and he should know because he’s the same person who imports Cessa from Salvador. Pete Lizarraga told us that Carib cement is coming at the right time for Belize – but we asked his visiting cement expert, how can you make sure that your house is sufficiently strong to stand up to a storm.
Pete Lizarraga, Importer
“We have invested close to US$200 million into upgrading and bringing the plant up to date with the latest technology in cement production in the world. This brings about an interesting scenario, they have a lot of surplus capacity and as such they have been looking for export markets within the Caribbean. As you know they fabricate a cement for Caribbean environment which suits our environment in Belize. That cement is perfectly suited for marine conditions and construction condition that we have in Belize. Carib has come to Belize with a commitment of more than just trying to sell cement and our approach has been to more educate the Belizean contractor and the Belizean engineers gearing towards the proper use of cement and proper construction practices.”
“Most prospective builders are of the view that hey, just build your house out of cement. We view it in a very non-specific way, the house is built out of cement. Everybody knows cement is strong, it is fire proof, it can withstand any thing. How would you help to educate, not the engineer, the prospective homebuilder who operates from a position of very little technical knowledge? How would you help that person to safeguard the most important investment they’ll make in their lives, to make sure that it is what they think it is?”
Dr. Robin W.A. Osborne, Associate Professor
“If you ask me to say that in as few words as possible I would say control of the water to cement in the mixture of concrete and then treat that concrete with proper compaction and curing procedures.”
“So what should they tell their contractor, what should they insist upon, what they go to the worksite and try to oversee as it regards the concrete?”
Dr. Robin W.A. Osborne,
“Soup is good for eating but soup is not good for building. The rubbish concrete, the soupy concrete has no place on a responsible construction site. That is number one because its strength may be one half or one third of what it should be and it is durability may be one fifth or one seventh of what it can be at very little difference in cost. So it is very important that the mixtures be controlled and the practices be controlled in construction. Sadly, I have found a large body of lack of knowledge in Belize regarding the basic concrete technology and construction good practice.”
“You referred to soup, should I look for a certain thickness?”
Dr. Robin W.A. Osborne,
“Yes indeed. There is a rude remark that you probably cannot put on the air and that is that a good load of “cow down” in the pasture is for a normal concrete a reasonable indicator of quality. But if the cow has diarrhea you have a serious problem. In other words the concrete should not be sloppy and too wet.”
“When you are building educate yourself, make sure you get a contractor that is reputable. Look at the work that he has done in the past, do your research properly, make sure you have proper architectural; drawings, and it will not hurt to get an engineer come on site to inspect different phases of your construction.
I think any cement on the Belizean market can perform admirable under good conditions. Many times you have contractors that have horrible construction practices, use poor water cement ratio, use poor aggregates, and blame it on the cement. And I think as somebody in the cement industry it is our duty and our job to start this education process, to educate the homeowner as to the things to look for.”
Dr. Robin W.A. Osborne,
“One of the things for example that has grieved him particularly is to go to visit a particular construction which will remain nameless and to find probably, my own guess, $20 to $25 million of condominium construction and no building professional associated with the project for quality management and guidance and major errors of technical practice being committed by a foreman who we speak with, we give some gentle advice, he starts to implement the advice immediately and sees improvement within hours of his reduction of water in his concrete because he is open, he is hungry for knowledge. So this speaks to me of a great blot paper, hungriness or hunger for training for many of our people.”
“Carib has come to Belize committed to try to uplift construction standards in the country and it brings also to Belize another opportunity. We have a ship coming to Belize every two weeks with cement which will create an interesting scenario of going back empty. Now as Belizean entrepreneurs this is something that I see as a golden opportunity for Belize. Belize should be the breadbasket of the Caribbean as we always say and we are actually shipping beans to Jamaica right now and we could do so more economically on this ship.”
Carib is available locally and Lizaragga says he has already moved two shipments.