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In February of this year, the prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas addressed Parliament, and the Bahamian public for that matter, as he introduced the conversation regarding the possible change in our current tax structure. He introduced the discussion of value added tax or VAT.
Despite projections recently made by a leading consultancy that construction costs could spike due to the rise of Baha Mar, the president of the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) believes prices will remain high - and that has nothing to do with the mega resort.
The popularity of the new car scent is such that it has been packaged and available for sale. However, the compounds that make up the real new car smell are actually a cause for concern.
These compounds are part of a group of products called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs for short. In our efforts to live greener lives we must be very concerned about the quality of air in our indoor environment, and VOCs can have a significant negative effect on how well we feel when indoors.
VOCs are emitted as a gas from very ordinary items in our surroundings such as glues, plastics, carpets, paint, building materials, printers, paper and the list goes on. The concentration of VOCs indoors, where we spend most of our time, has been found to be generally ten times that found outdoors.
Because there are such a wide variety of compounds, the effects range from limited to toxic, and in some cases have been contributing factors in Sick Building Syndrome, a combination of ailments associated with an individual's place of work or residence. In some instances VOCs have been known to cause cancer in animals and are also suspected of causing cancer in humans. They are more commonly attributed to irritations of the eye, throat or nose. They can also cause nausea, headaches, damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
Admittedly some of the problems are as a result of misuse of products by consumers. A common mistake persons make is mixing cleaning products against the advice of the manufacturer, or neglecting to ensure that spaces are well-ventilated when painting or general construction is taking place.
The problem has caught the attention of many agencies including the Carpet and Rug Institute, which introduced a green labeling program in 1992 to test carpets, cushions and adhesives for emissions. Suitably-qualified products earn the institute's green label. Building designers wishing to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification have VOC limit tables to guide them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own set of guidelines called Indoor Air Plus Construction Specifications.
To limit your exposure to VOCs, get a fact sheet which is available on many websites that list the types of products that contain VOCs. Use products as they are intended to be used and avoid mixing chemicals. Store them in their original containers in garages, for example, as opposed to occupied spaces. Limit storage amounts by only purchasing as much product as you need.
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o Sonia Brown is the principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.
Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes (right) is presented with a book by Dr. Emmanuel Francis -- Manual of Junkanoo Costume Construction, A Beginners Guide to Junkanoo Design -- during a courtesy call at Government House September 19th, 2011. This book is a step-by-step guide to the basics in design and construction of costumes for Junkanoo parades in the Bahamas.
Former Progressive Liberal Party candidate Dr. Madlene Sawyer, who also headed the party's women's association, is the Democratic National Alliance's candidate for Southern Shores, the DNA announced yesterday.
Dr. Sawyer was the unsuccessful PLP candidate for Delaporte in the 1997 general election.
She was among the five candidates who DNA Leader Branville McCartney introduced last night at the party's Kemp Road street meeting.
Dr. Sawyer is a certified lawyer, physician and surgeon.
The other candidates are Delano Munroe (MICAL); Rozanna Prodesta Moore (Killarney); George Taylor Jr. (North Eleuthera) and Mark Humes (Fort Charlotte).
McCartney said Dr. Sawyer's decision to abandon the PLP is not a unique one.
In fact, he said she is one of many PLP supporters, FNM supporters and independents who have joined the DNA in recent months.
"They want to effect change in the country," McCartney told The Nassau Guardian yesterday. "They chose the DNA simply because they have seen what is going on in our country.
"For the last 20 years we have had the same persons running our country and they see where our country is going. Crime is out of control and the economy is stagnant. It is not moving."
Speaking about the DNA candidates in general, McCartney said they represent a cross section of society.
"We aim to have persons who would be part of the government who know what the citizens are going through," he said.
"Our candidates include CEOs, professionals, attorneys, CPAs, athletes, musicians, unionists, entrepreneurs, taxi drivers, etc. The good thing is these candidates saw the need for change and instead of sitting back, they stepped up to the plate."
According to a DNA statement, Humes is the chairman of the DNA and an assistant professor in the School of English Studies at The College of The Bahamas.
Taylor, a former Defence Force officer, now owns Taylor's Electrical & Mechanical Company Limited, which offers services in electrical and mechanical engineering as well as general construction.
Moore is the president and CEO of a nonprofit organization, Urban Youth Development Centre, which provides youth development and empowerment training for school aged youth, and extends their services to young adults ages 18 to 35, focusing on women's reproductive health, according to the DNA.
Munroe is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, the party said.
McCartney is expected to reveal the candidates for Marco City, Central Grand Bahama and East Grand Bahama this weekend in Freeport.
Enabling works are now in full swing for the $52.3 million critical care block at Princess Margaret Hospital, as top management at Cavalier Construction reveals 12 local sub-contractors will be hired for the job - a move that pushes total employment opportunities to "at least 500".
My father passed away at 87 years old on March 11th, 2013. I'd seen him twice this year before a visit just one week prior to his death. He was doing so well those first two times, that the last time I saw him, was when it finally sunk in that my father was actually going to die. Until then, I naively never felt it possible.
I'd always felt blessed that all of my loved ones were alive around me, while so many families deal with sudden deaths, accidents and sickness.
The whole idea of death and dying waited until now to visit my psyche.
My father lived a full and rich life. I have no regrets regarding our relationship, and have no thoughts or words left unsaid to my father, as we had a relationship...
A top U.S. investor is looking to revive a concrete plant on Exuma and purchase a large tract of land, a move that could facilitate considerable development on the island.
In September, Guardian Business exclusively revealed that February Point is poised to sell for "eight figures" to a large foreign entity.
John McGarvey, a property developer with major interests in Florida, has now set his sights on the property across the street. While already pumping millions into the Coconut Cove Hotel, he plans to gain this strategic foothold and play a leading role in future projects.
"My inspiration is mostly from a logistics standpoint. There is a lot more we can do once we square away February Point," McGarvey told Guardian Business. "There is so much energy happening on Exuma. I can see it being mall sub-divisions, maybe in time a golf course, a sports complex, or a business center. So we're working through it. It's still in the planning stages. But it's a good piece. I like the location."
Guardian Business understands that the concrete plant, closed down more than one year ago, has been included in the sale price. Sources close to the matter said it could act as a "staging point" for general construction, particularly for February Point and its future ambitions.
The Talisker Corporation, based in Toronto, is thought to be the leading contender to acquire the luxury community. This major deal involves approximately 715 acres of "mostly vacant" land, leaving plenty of room for development.
McGarvey noted that the plant would be mostly for his own use, although synergies are beginning to form as major players flock to one of the country's most beautiful places.
The developer told Guardian Business that work is progressing well on his first project at the Coconut Cove.
McGarvey is pouring $750,000 into phase one, with a projected budget of $5.5 million over the course of several years to bolster its room and amenity offerings.
He complimented the government on its efficiency and willingness to see Exuma develop and provide new opportunities for Bahamians.
In fact, he said training needs to be "the biggest focus" for the island going forward.
"If we don't train, the world is always crashing over our heads. We want to train Exumians as craftsmen. I want to take it to the next level," he explained. "We are better off taking the population here and doing it properly."
A third project being considered by McGarvey is a "private club" on Stocking Island, Guardian Business can reveal.
McGarvey said he hopes to combine the best elements of a hotel, fractional ownership model and single-family homes. He felt most people don't have $3 million to spend on a second home these days. Instead, he wants to provide a fractional piece of paradise at $300,000.
The renting of homes on Stocking Island would be restricted, he noted, in order to give it that private club feel.
McGarvey is looking at a boutique development that fits into the landscape, through low-lying buildings with a "green focus". Solar energy would feature prominently, he said.
Exuma has benefitted from a number of new investors of late.
Peter Nicholson, the Canadian developer at Grand Isle, recently pulled the luxury community out of receivership by purchasing 31 villas.
Former race car driver Eddie Irvine has invested close to $10 million into the Exuma Yacht Club. Guardian Business also exclusively revealed that a project on Norman's Cay had entered the "execution phase", according to Minister of Investments Khaalis Rolle.
And with the additional of Talisker, an experienced resort company, Exuma could enjoy a considerable boom over then next few years.
Construction costs in the region are expected to fall up until 2015, according to a leading consultancy, but The Bahamas may not benefit from the dip.
Work on Baha Mar, the $2.6 billion mega project on Cable Beach, will ramp up in 2012. A hot demand for contractors and raw materials could actually increase the cost of other construction projects in the country.
The findings, based on the BCQS International Market Trend Report 2011, attributes the forecasted decline in construction costs to the "negative escalation prediction of commodity indexes and natural resources", and the "natural balancing" of the market in terms of demand.
The report also predicts there could be more movement in the market as construction becomes more affordable and the price of established properties come down to more reasonable levels.
However, Simon Taylor, a director at BCQS International and the manager of the company's Turks and Caicos office, thinks the rise of Baha Mar could be a game changer for The Bahamas.
"It will create a greater demand for materials and labor. That could well mean The Bahamas has a more accelerated cost in terms of construction indexes," he told Guardian Business. "If you have so many resources on that project, anyone who wants to come in on the market may find the general price is artifically higher because of the demand."
Adding that The Bahamas is "very fortunate" to have the ongoing Baha Mar project, which is expected to significantly stimulate the economy, Taylor said it makes other projects, particularly on New Providence, less predictable from a cost standpoint.
As for the region as a whole, the projected decline in construction costs "leads to the reasonable prediction that the property and construction industries will be forced into taking measures to keep their markets moving and generating income", the report said.
It went on to suggest that, if pockets are deep enough, the next few years may be a good time to build.
At the time same, the market conditions will make achieving best value even more important. Project planning, controlled design development and the definition and agreement of construction prices and contractual obligations also take center stage.
Although Baha Mar should set the tone for New Providence, Taylor said the impact shouldn't be as profound in the Family Islands. The reduction in construction costs could provide reprieve for projects that have been put on hold in the difficult economy.
"There are a lot of projects that have come to a halt in the islands. Given the problems in the U.S. economy, developers are less keen to get involved in those projects. The news is good for Nassau, but whether that translates into the outer islands remains to be seen," Taylor explained.
Beyond The Bahamas, the BCQS International report identified a large number of stalled projects throughout the Caribbean "and their funders continue to discuss exit solutions in an attempt to unlock what value remains in partially built assets".
The consultancy revealed that it has seen a growing workload related to valuations in foreclosed properties.
Whereas in the past lenders could sit back and hope borrowers make good on their loans, parties are increasingly taking control.
In terms of The Bahamas, perhaps no greater example can be found than Kerzner International, which is in the process of transferring its Bahamian and Mexican assets to Canadian asset management firm Brookfield Asset Management after failing to service its billions in debt.