Abu Dhabi issues building law

The new law is set to clamp down on contractors using hazardous materials in government projects.

Contractors will now be liable for the use of hazardous materials on public projects.
Contractors will now be liable for the use of hazardous materials on public projects.

Contractors in Abu Dhabi will face fines for using hazardous building materials in government projects under a new contract introduced by the Abu Dhabi government.

This is the first time the emirate has included a clause governing building products in its construction contracts and will form part of the new Abu Dhabi Law No 1 of 2007.

Around 80% of the contract is made up of provisions stipulated by FIDIC, the internationally recognised framework for construction agreements.

According to Edward Sunna, head of construction and engineering at Al Tamimi & Company, the move is a real advance in terms of health and safety standards.

"We've seen claims in the past involving asbestos, for example, but the law has not been there," he said.

"This now imposes strict liability on the contractor and clamps down on potential misconduct. The contractor is ultimately responsible for the materials used in construction and any damage caused by them. Contractors must consider if a product is hazardous to health or the environment - it's now an act of public policy. It could mean fines for breaching a construction contract, but it will also breach the environmental aspect of the law."

As well as enhancing standards across government projects, the new contract will offer greater transparency for all parties involved.

"The Abu Dhabi government's aim is to attract international players with the capability and experience to complete the projects it has planned for the next 20 years," added Sunna.

According to David Heugin, region legal counsel, legal affairs and compliance, Middle East & Africa Region, ABB, the move will allow contractors to better calculate risk before bidding for a project.

"It's a huge step forward for the industry - the terms and conditions applied so far have been extremely bad," he said.

"Around the globe, especially in Europe, people know exactly what FIDIC is - it means you'll have total transparency on the risks you take. When you can calculate your risks better you can make a better offer, which will benefit the employer too."

Heugin added that the contract also places Abu Dhabi ahead of other Gulf states when it comes to creating an attractive business environment.

"When you consider the risks and costs associated with working on large government contracts, such as power or desalination plants, then this contract places Abu Dhabi way ahead of the competition. All governments in the Gulf, particularly Qatar, are now fighting to come up with ways to find contractors for their projects."

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