ABU DHABI // Officials plan to implement a comprehensive emirate-wide building code as soon as possible after nearly two years of delays, spurred by a directive from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces visited representatives from the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) on Wednesday at the World Future Energy Summit.
After hearing a presentation about the building code, he expressed great interest in the project and told the DMA to speed up implementation, according to Wam, the state news agency.
"We are so excited because finally the work is coming to fruition," said Fatma M Amer, a building code and construction adviser for the DMA. "It has endless benefits, the building code."
The code will replace a jumble of international systems used by architects and contractors in the emirate. It will set minimum standards for all new buildings, laying out requirements for fire safety, window safety, energy efficiency, handicapped accessibility and sewage disposal, among other things.
DMA staff began developing the code years ago, announcing an implementation date in early 2010. They pushed it back to January 2011, then again to this year.
Yesterday, Ms Amer said she expected the code to launch very soon, once it was approved by Abu Dhabi's executive council.
Sheikh Mohammed's blessing allowed the project to move to "the final stages", said Yasmeen Sami Saadah, the DMA's acting director of municipal regulations.
"It will be a great contribution," Ms Saadah said. "All contractors already implement a code but they implement whatever they feel like.
"Instead of referring to a preferred set of codes, they will refer to the code of Abu Dhabi."
DMA staff based the local requirements on the International Building Code but adapted them to the UAE's needs.
They removed references to "snow loads", for example, and shifted energy standards to complement the Estidama Pearl Rating System, the emirate's sustainable building code.
Ms Amer said the new code would result in longer-lasting buildings, benefiting owners and investors.
The lifespan of an average building in Abu Dhabi is about 20 years, according to the Estidama programme adviser, Edwin Young.
The DMA has no immediate plans to retro-fit old buildings to meet new standards, but a property maintenance section in the code would require owners to fix many issues. "After implementing the code, we are looking into what are the serious glaring problems in existing buildings," Ms Amer said.
Initial enforcement would be difficult, said Ms Amer, who helped develop New York City's building code. "Anything new is a little bit tough," she said. "However, we will feel the benefits in no time."