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Skills shortage may hold back sustainability

Severe shortage in UAE could hamper progress towards sustainable construction.

Regulations stating all buildings in the emirates need to be made in line with international ‘green’ standards comes into force in January.
Regulations stating all buildings in the emirates need to be made in line with international ‘green’ standards comes into force in January.

A severe shortage of skilled labour could hamper the progress towards sustainable construction in the UAE.

A new regulation stipulating that all buildings in the emirates need to be constructed in line with international ‘green' buildings standards is set to come into force in January.

But according to Geir Jensen, general manager of formwork company Doka Emirates, contractors and sub-contractors could be up against labour and time constraints when it comes to fulfilling the regulation.

 

"The current workforce can't be expected to do jobs fast-track as they're not skilled enough," said Jensen at the Construction Week conference last week.

"Until we have the skilled labour, I feel we won't be able to do sustainable buildings."

Jensen added that another major setback could be the unrealistic building schedules set by developers.

"Unfortunately, players in the market are generally not given the time to do sustainable buildings - developers and building owners are in such a hurry to finish their buildings that they're not interested, in my opinion, to take the time and invest money in sustainability. They have to finish normal buildings first before they can start talking about sustainable ones."

A lack of maturity in the market might also hold things back, added Jensen.

Any green building standards introduced also need to apply to the regional environment, and should not depend on standards applied elsewhere in the world.

"The system here is still very immature," said Jensen.

"Special standards specifically for this environment are needed. One of the first things that needs to be considered, along with labour and project timeframes, is ensuring the skeleton of a building is strong enough to last at least 100 years."

One developer at the conference, who wished to remain unnamed, said that a change in culture is paramount to making sustainability work.

"I think you're asking for the impossible unless you change the culture," the developer said. "At the end of the day, a developer wants to sell its property and make a profit - we're not a charitable organisation. I don't think we'll ever be able to reach what we're discussing without changing the culture and putting the breaks on the way we currently work."

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Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020