Yamurai Zendera looks closely at the trend-setting glass sector in the UAE, and how it is benchmarking regulations and standards for the construction industry
The fact that the UAE glass sector has the opportunity to set the example for the rest of the world in terms of regulations and standards was a key message that came out of the recent Safety Design in Buildings conference in Dubai.
Speaking at the event, Stephen Lipscombe, chairman of the Glass and Glazing Federation and senior manager: technical at Emirates Glass, said there was no reason why the UAE could not adopt its own code, cherry-picking the best parts of existing codes from the likes of Europe and America.
“If the UAE decides to go all American, fantastic. If it chooses to go all European, fantastic. But why should you go with what somebody else does? This is the Middle East. The environment is different, the temperature is different. The operational capabilities of a building are different under this severe heat,” said Lipscombe.
“Would not it make more sense to turn around and say ‘let us have a federal standard for the UAE. We want our glass to the European standard of thickness, and we are quite happy to use the American standard in a way a unit is put together, and to use the American standard in the way glass is toughened.’ We can cherry-pick the best out of all the available standards.”
Lipscombe, who has more than 35 years’ experience in technical marketing and commercial roles and technical specifier markets, believes that a UAE code would be in the best interests of industry and the consumer and, critically, he points out, the Federal National Council (FNC) is open to ideas.
“It [a UAE code] removes unsuitable and unsafe product from the market,” he said. “There is a willingness for the FNC to engage in this because they have modified the fire regulations here in Dubai, and they are doing the same in Abu Dhabi.
They have modified our regulations now. They do not allow certain types of material to be used for cladding. The buildings are inspected and checked before they are signed off and before the client has to pay.
“Go to the energy side, and LEED was a big thing out here. Now you have Estidama, taking over from LEED and other green methodologies for building sustainable buildings. They are now developing their own GCC-wide sustainability system. So if you can do it for being green, let us do it for being safe. And I think it is going that way, and we are all committed to it.”
Lipscombe would like to see what he called a “four-pronged approach” to improving building standards and regulations for the glass sector locally. Firstly, he called for ‘government commitment’ through organs such as Civil Defence.
Secondly, ‘industry commitment’: “We do not buy cheap,” he explained. “We all strive out here to be ISO, have a CE Mark. The glass sector here is a very big case in point. We are constantly upgrading our standards.”
Thirdly, he called for ‘community involvement’. “You would not buy your children a cheap, unsafe toy. It has got to have a CE Mark on it,” said Lipscombe. “Why would a designer put a cheap, unsafe window or a cheap, unsafe door in a building that somebody else’s children are going to live behind? You would not do it for your own kids. So it is about creating awareness.”
Lastly, he mentioned ‘moral responsibility’. “A comment was made about enforcement, if you go to prison,” he said. “What this boils down to is safety: whether it is the safety of the glass per se, the safety of the fire protection glass, or the safety of the system that it goes in.”
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