The Gulf countries have a way to go with implementing building and design standards across the region to cope with the elements.
With windows and metal and glass curtainwalls typically comprising as much as 50% to 100% of the exterior cladding of large buildings, they are key elements in the performance of the building envelope.
Speaking to Construction Week Qatar, Michael Luna, business line leader, Building & Construction and Electrical, Intertek, outlines that in North America, the vast majority of all the construction claims come from air and moisture-related failures in the building envelope.
Luna highlights that each country in the Gulf has its own specific standard, while adopting international standards in tandem. He elaborates that in the GCC countries are adopting international standards but adding their own interpretation, depending on the country and its requirements. “It is our job as a third-party to understand all those requirements and help contractors or manufacturers enter that market,” he says.
Intertek is an expert in the façade or exterior building envelope; it looks at all the sides, roof and floor of a structure, determining the degree of dust, air and moisture egress.
The system that Intertek uses is building enclosure commissioning (BECX) and Luna explains: “BECX is a method of ensuring that the building's owner meets with all the safety and performance requirements of his building.”
The company follows four basic principles: mitigate risk, evaluate, inspect and certify.
With numerous elements involved in ensuring a structure’s integrity, he points out that the biggest challenge is within the design phase as he believes that too much glazing is used in the region. “Glazing is huge in the GCC and to me, this is the weakest link. Maybe designs need to be more robust with the right amount of glazing used?”
Also, the on-site installation is a problematic part of the system when it comes to the Gulf region, he shares, and he attributes this directly to a lack of skills in the region.
“The skills of the labourers … aren’t trained and skilled to perform the installation to the manufacturer’s specifications. So we have lots of problems in the field and inspections are therefore really crucial.”
Educating the public as to the necessity of BECX is another challenge he says and adds, “While there is a lot of excitement when these principles are discussed at conferences, generally the benefits are not understood."
Nevertheless, he feels that the company is making headway in this regard he assures: “We have convinced a few main contractors that this is the way to go and they are starting to see the benefits over time,” he says.