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Home » Decoding safety: Demystifying the UAE and KSA building codes for developers and architects

Decoding safety: Demystifying the UAE and KSA building codes for developers and architects

by Madaline Dunn

With the infrastructure of the UAE and Saudi Arabia growing at a rapid rate, so is the need for the construction industry to focus on safe, secure, and sustainable practices.

Building codes are one of the primary defence mechanisms in relation to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures, addressing critical safety aspects such as indoor air quality, disposal systems, system efficiency, and building envelopes.

But what factors should developers and architects prioritize in 2024 when it comes to meeting evolving regulations?

Sustainability practices

Building codes and standards are constantly evolving and the implementation of modern codes is crucial. Recent market activity shows more regulations emerging that support clean energy infrastructure, new methods of construction and the importance of a circular economy. In Saudi Arabia, for example, several ambitious projects such as the Red Sea Development Project and NEOM are pushing the boundaries that look towards the performance provisions of the ICC’s model codes which advocate for energy efficiency, water conservation, and green construction in terms of the building materials used.

One of the most important initiatives from the International Code Council (ICC) revolves around collaborating with other Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to develop an international standard to support quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across a building’s lifecycle, from design to construction to operations, bringing together operational and embodied impacts. In addition, working on initiatives to establish industry standards for the adoption of eco-friendly cement in construction, driving advancements towards carbon-neutral cement production.

Capacity building is also particularly critical in today’s global construction landscape that requires quality assurance across the sector of building safety.

Installing energy-efficient systems like smart lighting and HVAC systems allows for the optimised use of resources and promotes adoption of renewable energy sources leading to the reduction of overall energy consumption and operational costs.

Furthermore, the adoption of sustainable water management solutions such as solar-powered desalination, and greywater reuse for non-potable purposes, alongside the implementation of water-saving technologies like low-flow faucets and showerheads, is becoming increasingly crucial.

Safety and compliance

A focus on building safety has become an integral part and a national priority for fostering sustainable infrastructure growth in both the UAE and KSA.

The UAE has enforced advanced building codes and standards, reflecting its commitment to ensuring the safe integration of emerging technologies and contributing to the establishment of an advanced building safety system.

In a parallel context, KSA has strategically implemented regulations and annexes related to building and construction, focussing on public safety and health. The Saudi Building Code framework is a testament to this strategic approach, ensuring the safety of all facilities and their inhabitants by defining fundamental principles applicable throughout the country.

Updating codes to address emerging challenges

The I-Codes encompass aspects like indoor air quality, building materials safety, structural design and more. The I-Codes also promote accessibility and inclusivity, fostering the well-being of occupants, and ensuring buildings are designed to accommodate everyone, including those with disabilities.

The International Plumbing Code (IPC) and International Private Sewage Disposal Code (IPSDC) play a crucial role in prioritising the safety and health of building occupants and the public. Similarly, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and International Green Construction Code (IgCC) contribute to energy-efficient standards and the creation of high-performance buildings.

Within ICC-ES, the product certification arm of ICC, Evaluation Service Reports (ESRs) provide manufacturers with pathways to introduce new and innovative products to the market, ensuring compliance with specific acceptance criteria for safety.

Innovative technologies utilised to enhance safety and efficiency

Two emerging construction processes that are quickly gaining popularity around the world, particularly in the MENA region, are 3D printing of concrete structures and offsite construction.

Such methodologies significantly contribute to reduction in material waste, enhanced construction quality, more controlled and more accessible work environments, and optimized project timelines. These practices contribute to more efficient and eco-friendly construction.

The region is witnessing exponential growth and interest from Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), manufacturers and consultants in embracing those technologies for wider and safer use.

By Mohamed Amer, Regional Director of Operations, International Code Council MENA

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