x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ministry to establish buildings regulator

Ministry of Interior buildings will in future have to conform to new security and engineering standards.

ABU DHABI // Ministry of Interior buildings will in future have to conform to new security and engineering standards. The ministry will launch a new company next July, called Secure, to administer a new code of building practices.

Secure, which will act as a regulator, will bring together experts in engineering, security and safety. "Currently we are working in isolation; engineers, consultants and security officials," said Brigadier Faris Khalifa, the director general of Establishments Protection at the Ministry of Interior. "People would finish construction before approaching officials for security. Buildings are being built, especially the commercial ones or even the Government ones, with no consideration for security. So a designer would look into the aesthetics of the building as opposed to the security risks.

"But we could work together from the beginning to ensure basic security requirements." His comments came on the sidelines of yesterday's World Class Protection and Security for Public and Strategic Buildings conference. Secure will provide guidelines to builders applying for construction licences. Such documents are required before any new building is erected. The regulator's role will also be to ensure security measures such as surveillance systems, including CCTV, and in extreme cases, bullet proof windows and doors, are properly installed in new buildings.

Secure's main office will be in Abu Dhabi, and there will be branches in Al Ain and Al Gharbia, all of which will come become operational on July 3. Initially, only Ministry of Interior buildings, such as civil defence institutions, police stations and ministerial departments, will have to adhere to the code. For ministry buildings, the rules will take effect from January 2011. Backers of the scheme say it could be extended to all new buildings, especially those of "strategic importance" and those that host major sporting or cultural events.

Brig Khalifa said the new strategy was needed because Abu Dhabi had "massive" projects already built or under construction, such as sporting venues and museums, which were classified as strategic. "It is true we have built the biggest sports facilities but they are still lacking some of security standards," Brig Khalifa said. "We have been often obliged to make changes to the buildings when we host international games.

"Such changes included the security gates and the capacity of the stadiums, in addition to fire equipment and alarms and surveillance cameras. We are working hard to get all these installed for future events." Secure will also be charged with classifying buildings according to their strategic importance to decide the level of security measures required. "We will be looking at security technical details of these buildings, CCTV systems, exits and entrances, civil specifications," said Lt Col Arch Saif al Kaabi, the director of the Engineering Projects Administration at Abu Dhabi Police.

"Security is everybody's responsibility. It starts from the site plan, the first step in the building, to the completion of the building," said Brig Khalifa. "There are standards imposed by the Civil Defence and the police for both government and commercial buildings but we want the private sector to consult us about all details. "We could provide them with the type of materials that are safe to use, their risks - whether flammable or not. Decorations, for example, we know that almost all kinds of decorations in buildings are flammable. Electricity systems are also faulty."

Emad al Hashemi, the head of the fire safety section at Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, said ensuring total safety in all new buildings in the capital was currently impossible. "There is no way that we can make sure that no construction projects in Abu Dhabi are using dangerous or illegal building materials, simply because the number of Civil Defence officials is very few compared to the number of construction projects in the emirate," he said.

hhassan@thenational.ae