Guide to Dubai’s new building code
After more than three years in development, Dubai is about to launch the third and final element of its own green building regulations. The Big Project speaks to development committee member Adel Mohammed Mokhtar
Since 2008, a dedicated committee at Dubai Municipality — in collaboration with DEWA — has been working on the
Emirate’s green building regulations and specifications; a three-part regulatory framework that will become mandatory for all building permit applications by 2014.
Currently in the testing phase — with adoption voluntary for the next three years — the 79-point regulations are complemented with further guidance on implementation and sourcing of green building materials.
Explained over three books published by Dubai Municipality (DM) the primary point of reference divides the regulations into seven sections, covering everything from ecology and planning to effective use of resources (see box).
The regulations, instigated by Dubai’s ruler H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2008, align with the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 consolidating environmental practices from other codes adapted to the unique requirements of the Emirate, by a team of leading engineers, architects and consultants.
The result of an extensive study undertaken by the committee, the current version will be modified significantly over the next three years, according to the committee’s senior architect Adel Mohammed Mokhtar, who works in DM’s
qualifications and building studies department.
“We worked with a consultant to produce the codes and they aim to improve the ecological footprint of the Emirate and improve design standards. It’s based on LEED and BREEAM but the consultant helped us to tailor these standards to Dubai’s unique requirements,” he explains, adding that while the economy was booming, design faced a “catastrophe”.
Continuing to explain that there was a lack of existing information about the climatic conditions which make other codes difficult to apply to the Middle East, Mokhtar says the committee expects to make a number of modifications
to the current version and welcomes all those who build to the guidelines to share their feedback and contributions.
“While the project is optional until 2014 we expect to make many changes. For it to be mandatory it must be perfect,” Mokhtar says.
“We were thinking about enforcing a grey water recycling regulations, but if you look at the planning of Dubai the sewerage systems are modified so this water is already recycled and used for [non agricultural] irrigation.
“It would be a waste of time and money to implement this so it was removed,” he adds.
According to the handbook, green building is defined as “the practice of creating structures and using processes that increase the efficiency of resource use”, namely energy, water and materials, while also reducing the impact of buildings on human health and the environment throughout their lifetime.
The purpose of the regulations is to improve the performance of buildings in Dubai by reducing the consumption of
energy, water and materials; improving public health, safety and general welfare; and by enhancing the planning, design, construction and operation of buildings to create “an excellent city that provides the essence of success and comfort of living”.
The regulations are introduced as an addition to the current Dubai Municipality Regulations, but revoke: The Administrative Resolution No. 66 of the year 2003, which proves regulations on the Technical Specifications
for Thermal Insulation Systems.
• Circular No. 161 of the year 2003 issued on Implementing Green Building Regulations in the Emirate of Dubai.
• Circular No. 171 and 174 of the year 2007, issued on implementing Building Green Roofs and facades.
• The Administrative Resolution No. 30 of the year 2007, issued on Promulgating the Implementing
Regulations of the Local Order No. 11 of the year 2003 on Public Health and Safety in the Emirate of Dubai.
The regulations apply to all new buildings; additions, extensions and refurbishments requiring a building permit; existing buildings (where specified); mixed use buildings and buildings which undergo a change in use.
“Extremely tall buildings”, large shopping malls, hospital and laboratories are exempt, according to the current handbook, as “in order to preserve the character of these buildings, it may not be possible to meet some of the
requirement of the regulations”.
Admitting that Dubai’s existing building stock also presents a problem, the Municipality plans to conduct a study into the feasibility of developing a fourth element to the regulations, which will cover retrofits.
For now concentrating on future projects, the Municipality reports three contractors are already applying for permits in accordance with the regulations.
“Let’s say there is a project and a contractor wants to build a tower in Dubai Marina,” explains Mokhtar.
“When the contractors applies for the project there are three steps involving the permits section, architects and mechanical technician within the municipality, and then DEWA for the electric and water elements.”
Mokhtar is currently involved in raising awareness of the programme by delivering presentations to those on forefront of the industry. As the only architect currently represented on the development committee — and an estimated 35% of the regulations directly applicable to the design stage of a project — he says the most influential elements can often be the orientation of a building and its facade.
Part of Mokhtar’s work involves liaising with local educational institutions specialising in design and construction related courses to devise an educational programme and modules in other programmes to teach the next generation how to design and build in compliance with the codes.
“Green is the future. These other ratings systems allow a company to market itself as having achieved gold or silver ratings, but how effective is this really? Do they save energy or water or is it just showing off?”
“Our aim is to turn this away from a business opportunity and towards a building method everybody understands.”
Chapters in Dubai’s environmental regulations
Ecology and planning:
Microclimate and indoor comfort
Environmental impact assessment
Ventilation and air quality
Daylight and visual comfort
Energy building fabric
Commissioning and management
Onsite systems: generation and renewables
Resource effectiveness :
Water conservation and efficiency
Commissioning and management
Onsite systems: recovery and treatment
Resource effectiveness: materials and waste and
materials and resources
The full handbook is available from Dubai Municipality offices, Deira