Waking up the neighbours

Should night-time restrictions take site proximity into account?

COMMENT, Projects

When writing columns such as this, journalists usually take one of two routes. The first is a considered, thoughtful response to pertinent issues of the day. The second is a rant about something that has annoyed them.

This week I’m opting for the latter. As I sit at my desk approaching a deadline, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open and in a foul mood caused by a lack of sleep. This doesn’t have anything to do with a hedonistic lifestyle or a young family, though. It’s caused by the fact that a contractor on a site outside my apartment window appears to have fallen behind schedule, so to catch up has decided to extend working into the small hours.

The site is in what is typically a quiet residential area, but is very close to a couple of existing blocks. It has been active for around 12 months, but until recently work would generally stop by around 10pm at the latest – presumably as a result of concern for nearby residents.

Given the job I do, I am fully aware that there are certain occasions, such as concrete pours, where once work starts the process has to continue until it is complete. But these late working patterns are not a one-off – or even a few isolated incidents.

This is an issue, I am told by veterans who have lived in Dubai for much longer than I have, that was commonplace back in the boom and its reoccurrence provides anecdotal evidence that the much-discussed recovery in the marketplace is already underway.

It is also an issue that has been addressed by Dubai Municipality, and there are already restrictions in place in terms of the noise levels that sites should not exceed.

Its guidelines state that construction noise should not exceed 55 decibels (dB) during daytime hours, and 45dB between 8pm and 7am. Now if somebody were to ask me if the noise outside my window at 1am last night was above or below 45dB I couldn’t give an honest answer. At that time of night, I had neither the equipment nor the inclination to measure it. I suspect the contractor wasn’t paying too much attention to measurements, either.

All I know is that it is so noisy that neither I, nor many of my neighbours, is able to sleep through it and that the proximity of the site to the surrounding buildings is probably as important as the noise-generating activity on it.

I know that this is one of the prices that is paid in the name of progress in a city whose pace of growth over two decades has been frenetic. I also know that few of the spectacular construction feats that have been achieved across the GCC would have been possible if 24-hour working on sites was not allowed. Furthermore, I’m absolutely aware that whilst I am in bed whining about the racket there are scores of people on the other side of the glass carrying out difficult, sometimes grueling, jobs working all kinds of unsociable hours.

Thankfully, I’m a renter rather than an owner, so my response will be to buy a good pair of earplugs and put up with it until the project finishes or I decide to move. If I’d been unfortunate enough to buy, though, I’d now be looking online to see where I could pick up a noise meter.

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