Abu Dhabi Inaugurates International Building Codes in 2011

» Featured Columnists | By Alma Kadragic | January 14, 2011 9:00 AM ET

(ABU DHABI, UAE) -- Few buildings in Abu Dhabi are more than 15 years old, but crumbling facades and interior deterioration of plumbing and electrical systems are not uncommon. One of the reasons is that there were no standard building codes. To a great extent, it was every builder for himself as corners were cut and money saved. In 2010 the government of Abu Dhabi realized that something had to be done and set about creating a set of standards that went into effect on January 1.

One of the problems up to now has been that enormous energy and funds are expended on the iconic signature buildings but not on less showy residential and commercial buildings. The codes are not intended for the ADIA tower, HQ, or Emirates Palace. They are needed for the buildings we don't write about, the ones that make the news only if there is a fire or other dramatic event. Meanwhile, commercial and residential tenants feel the impact of shoddy construction practices.

The government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has recognized that in order to achieve the vision of Abu Dhabi 2030, an emphasis must be placed upon improving the quality of construction materials and building practices so that the safety and security of all building occupants from natural or manmade hazards can be assured. To do so, the Emirate through the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) adopted the world state of the art leading family of building and construction codes and standards: the International Codes, published by the International Code Council.

The International Building Codes for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are intended to improve the construction standards of buildings across the emirate, creating more cost-effective structures with greater durability and higher health and safety standards. The codes also aim to raise professional standards across the local construction industry.

The new Abu Dhabi Code is comprised of eight of the International Building Codes, including:

  • International Building Code
  • International Energy Conservation Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Plumbing Code
  • International Mechanical Code.
  • International Private Sewage Disposal Code
  • International Property Maintenance Code
  • International Fuel Gas Code

The codes are to address the design and installation of building systems through requirements emphasizing performance. It is a comprehensive building code that establishes minimum regulations for building systems using prescriptive and performance-related provisions.

Rashid Mubarak Al Hajeri, Chairman of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Building Codes Higher Council, said at the end of last year,  "The imminent introduction of the new Building Codes represents a major change to building construction practices in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi which will create quality buildings that are safe and sustainable.  These codes will also protect construction investments."

During the summer DMA and the municipalities of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi assessed the readiness of thousands of engineering consultancies, contractors, and developers to adopt new International Building codes.  More than 40,000 construction industry professionals were invited to participate in telephone surveys or online questionnaires as part of a major consultation campaign designed to support the smooth implementation of new regulation.

The survey formed part of the DMA's ongoing industry engagement program that involved more than 1500 professionals from across the construction industry who took part in one or more of the 50 training sessions that were organized during 2010.

Ahmed Shareef, Undersecretary of the DMA, said, "The introduction of the new Building Codes comes as part of our leaders' vision and guidance to implement the best sustainable standards in developing the Emirate, which brings us one step closer towards a new era in construction quality that will introduce world class standards and best practices. This survey reflects the DMA's commitment to achieving the Emirate's 2030 vision in making Abu Dhabi a better place for residents, investors, and visitors."

Earlier, DMA conducted its largest ever training program to prepare the construction industry for the new building code regulations.  Workshops ran until mid-November in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.  Experts from the International Code Council (ICC) led the sessions designed to ensure trade professionals are ready to apply and comply the new regulations.

"The new building codes warrant the largest training of its kind to take place in the UAE," said Shareef, who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi Building Codes Higher Council.  "Our message to the construction industry is clear: take advantage of this opportunity to get ready for the new codes.  Right now, we are in a process of consultation and training with our industry partners.  By taking the journey towards better buildings together, we can ensure that the transition to the new codes will be a smooth one."

Delegates from the municipal system, government, and the construction industry attended the workshops to help prepare them to migrate to the new codes. Eng. Ghaleb Al Rawi, who participated in one of the workshops and holds an Architectural Master's Degree is a specialist at ATKINS engineering consultancy, noted that his company is working hard to be prepared for compliance with the building codes.

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