UAE storm 2016: Top 5 tips to waterproof buildings

Under-construction and planned infrastructure can be waterproofed against damages due to rain and storms, an expert from Cavendish Maxwell says

The facade of GEMS American Academy in Abu Dhabi collapsed due to rains in the UAE. [Image: Khaleej Times]
The facade of GEMS American Academy in Abu Dhabi collapsed due to rains in the UAE. [Image: Khaleej Times]

The UAE witnessed significant infrastructural damage last week after a storm ripped through the country. 

Dubai's Danube metro station was flooded after rains lashed the country on 9 March.

In Abu Dhabi, the facade of GEMS American Academy school crashed due to rains on 8 March.

The capital Emirate recently announced it will formulate new regulations for infrastructure to allow for greater resilience against harsh weather conditions. 

But can under-construction projects be protected against similar damages in the future?

Rhys Steel, chartered building surveyor at Cavendish Maxwell, outlines the top tips to remember while waterproofing a structure.

1. Climate

The water tightness and wind resistance of a building is established when it is designed.

The design of a building should take into consideration the climate in which it is constructed and also allow for the extremities to ensure that a building is futureproof.

2. Mechanics

Buildings tend to have two basic waterproofing mechanisms; the below ground waterproofing that protects the building from water in the ground and the above ground waterproofing that protects the building from the natural elements such as rainfall.

This week we have seen the failure of the latter and in particular, the details at construction joints.

These are considered “weak spots” and are prone to water penetration in extreme conditions, due to the fact that a construction joint is weak.

3. Drainage

If you have been in the UAE last week you will also undoubtedly have seen flooded roads and highways.

The main reason for this is the lack of sufficient drainage.

The design of buildings and infrastructure does not consider heavy rainfall and therefore villas do not have gutters and downpipes, balconies in high rise residential towers tend to have small drainage outlets and roads do not have drains for the water to run into and as a result the water ponds.

4. Materials

The extreme wind has caused issues with industrial buildings.

Aluminium sheet roofing panels have been stripped from the frame and this can be caused by the fixing being insufficient and an ineffective design allowing the strong winds to get a grasp of the panels and tear them off.

5. Plan and review

It is recommended that an expert is involved at the earliest possible stage in a buildings lifecycle to advise on defective waterproofing details at design stage and monitor the construction of the waterproofing details and construction quality in general during the construction phase.

Existing buildings can be inspected for waterproofing defects, the survey is executed in a two stage approach: The first is a desktop review of the construction details to establish any “weak spots” and to ensure that the details are sufficient to withstand extreme climactic conditions, and the second is a visual inspection of the construction to access the condition and establish any potential issues that may arise from defective construction.  

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