UAE building commissioning 'not up to the mark'

EGBC acting chairman says carelessness is compromising sustainability

Saeed Al Abbar, acting vice chairman of Emirates Green Building Council.
Saeed Al Abbar, acting vice chairman of Emirates Green Building Council.

Testing and commissioning of buildings in the UAE is “not up to the mark”, according to Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) acting chairman, Saeed Al Abbar.

In an interview with MEP Middle East, Al Abbar said that while sustainable construction has made a lot of progress in recent years, its long-term effectiveness is being compromised in many cases by poor practices prior to handover.

“We still need to focus a lot on the commissioning stage. I think the construction industry here, as a whole, is not quite up to the mark,” he said.

“There are a lot of projects that do very well at commissioning, but I think if we look at it overall, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.

“You get to the end of a project and it is already behind schedule, and commissioning is the last thing to happen. Sometimes it gets rushed and that’s where a large part of energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality often get lost,” he added.

However, Al Abbar did recognise the work of Abu Dhabi sustainable building body Estidama in improving the testing and commissioning of buildings in the Emirate.

“Estidama has definitely raised the bar of workmanship in Abu Dhabi largely because they conduct a number of site audits throughout construction,” he said.

“[An] area they focus on a lot is the commissioning stage, which is typically an area worldwide where not enough attention is given. Estidama is focussing on checking what is happening onsite at that stage and they do a thorough review of the commissioning document, [which has] raised the bar in commissioning.”

Paul Kirby, country director of testing and commissioning firm Commtech, said that Abu Dhabi’s approach to commissioning should be emulated throughout the UAE and wider region if the push towards sustainable building is to succeed.

“Dubai will eventually take this on but, until then, will not understand the importance of commissioning and sustainability, and the link between the two. In the final stages of commissioning, or when you are called in to firefight, the client can see the advantages [of thorough testing and commissioning] and only then do they realise the importance of what we do in the industry,” he said.

Kirby also encouraged the early involvement of testing and commissioning professionals in building design and construction to ensure that the sustainability of buildings are maximised.

“Commissioning management should start at the design stage with a ‘commissionability review’. That should alleviate the majority of design issues from the beginning and ensure that not only the design works for the client, but equally the system can be commissioned.

"Directly after the design has been approved and agreed by all parties on the project team then going forward is so much easier. Periodic checking on installation during this stage of construction is vital as human error can come into play and most of the time does,” said Kirby.

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