x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE to switch to metric system within five years

The property sector will shift to the metric system on November 11, and the entire country is to follow suit within five years.

DUBAI //The property sector will shift to the metric system on November 11, and the entire country is to follow suit within five years.

The switch from a mixture of metric and imperial measurements, announced last August, will eliminate the use of feet, inches and yards for all entities operating in the UAE, according to the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).

The change in the property industry marks the completion of the second phase of the conversion project, which began last year when the country switched from gallons to litres in fuel measurements.

Esma's priority has been implementing the change in the property sector, and the country's land departments have begun updating their software to comply with the upcoming regulation.

Mohammed Badri, the acting director general of Esma, said the organisation had been working closely with the land departments, conducting education awareness campaigns for nearly two years.

"You go to any land department and one person is using feet, one person is using metres, and it's confusing for everyone," Mr Badri said. "Now, we're starting to streamline the process."

The November deadline was decided upon by a national action committee, comprising representatives of land departments, municipalities and other agencies.

Mr Badri said the start date - 11/11/11 - was "sort of a fun number" because one square metre is equal to nearly 11 square feet.

"We've been working on this a long time, and it's nice to have a small element that is not so serious," he said.

Recent media reports that had said the whole country would switch over in November were inaccurate.

Though the metric system is already in wide use, the Government decided in 2006 to develop a national system of measurement to ensure the entire country is on the same page.

For some, the new regulation will not mean any significant practical changes.

"This will make no impact whatsoever," said Ian Albert, the regional director of Colliers International Middle East, a property company.

"Abu Dhabi has always been on the metric system, and Dubai has been predominantly on it for some time," Mr Albert said.

"This is a minor change that most people won't even notice, but it's a common-sense application by the Government to make sure we're all working on the same platform."

The next phase of the project will target consumer products, including food and drinks, a process that should be completed within five years.

Esma will launch a public outreach campaign to inform residents of the upcoming transitions.

"We don't want to all of a sudden go changing the system on people without warning, so now, we want to go to normal people to tell them there will be a change," Mr Badri said.

jthomas@thenational.ae