Standards in the United Arab Emirates

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Standards in the United Arab Emirates

Mohamed Badri

An Interview with Mohamed Badri of the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology

Established in 2001, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology holds responsibility for formulating and issuing national standards as well as adopting international standards to strengthen the national economy and protect consumers, the environment and the national market. The organization also, as part of its oversight, manages a national measurement and calibration system, runs a quality and certification system, and accredits laboratories. The ESMA acting director general here shares insights about the use of standards in the United Arab Emirates, the regional petroleum industry and a planned regional building code.

Your organization is planning to develop a region-wide building code for the United Arab Emirates. What are the goals for and scope of the code?

The purpose of this regional code is to establish minimum requirements to safeguard public health, safety and general welfare with regard to the built environment. Its provisions will apply to the construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, replacement, repair, equipment, use and occupancy, location, maintenance, removal and demolition of every building or structure or any connected or attached appurtenances. We are working to build a code referenced to the International Code Council code that is adapted for our country and environment.

Implementing these building codes is a major step toward achieving the Abu Dhabi 2030 vision - a strategic roadmap for economic progress in the emirate - and will have a positive long-term impact on Abu Dhabi's and the UAE economy, growth and development. (The UAE federation includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.)

The code will enhance safety and longevity, and encourage efficiency, cost savings and sustainable building; it will also ensure greater fire protection, construction safety and structural integrity in new buildings.

In addition, if the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) proceeds with the formation of unified gulf building codes, a joint committee consisting of national standardization committees in the member states (the countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) the GSO (GCC Standardization Organization) and the private sector would be entrusted with a plan of action for the project. The member states would provide reference standards as well as information about international practices and successful experiences applied in this area.

The UAE code, which hopefully will expand to other GCC countries, will establish these minimum requirements through addressing the following:

  • Adequate light and ventilation,
  • Energy conservation,
  • Means of egress facilities,
  • Sanitation,
  • Structural strength,
  • Stability,
  • Construction,
  • Alteration,
  • Enlargement,
  • Demolition,
  • Location,
  • Equipment,
  • Movement,
  • Maintenance,
  • Repair,
  • Removal,
  • Use and occupancy,
  • Replacement and
  • Safety for life, including fire fighters and emergency responders, and for property, from fire and other hazards related to buildings.

What standards would be included in the UAE regional code?

Standards in the regional code would include those from many groups.

Each of the codes adopted by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi recognizes specific design or material standards that are acceptable for construction materials, methods or products in compliance with these codes. These acceptable standards, ASTM International standards, British standards and European Norms, are cited in the code.

Then, as a stage of harmonizing different international and regional standards in UAE standards, the following process will be adopted in the regional code.

A building official may approve products, materials and building systems or components that are manufactured to the latest editions of other international standards than those referenced within these codes, such as ASTM, when, in the opinion of the building official, such products meet or exceed the referenced standards. Such comparable standards may include, but are not limited to, United Arab Emirates standards, British standards, European standards, and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. The building designer shall submit written declaration that the proposed comparable standard is consistent with the design and installation requirements of this code and other affected standards. In the event that another standard is used, the designer shall be limited to the provisions within that standard and shall not concurrently apply provisions from any other similar standards.

What role do standards play in the petroleum industry in your country and your region?

Standards are very important in the petroleum industry. Standards are used in all fields of this industry, upstream and downstream, for materials, tools and equipment, pipelines, health, safety, the environment and quality systems.

In accordance with this situation, UAE is the first country in the GCC that established a national gas and oil technical committee (UAE/TC for Oil and Gas Industry), acting as a mirror committee for GSO/TC for Oil and Gas; ISO TCs 28 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants; 67 on Materials, Equipment and Offshore Structures for Petroleum, Petrochemical and Natural Gas Industries; 193 on Natural Gas; and other technical committees of international and regional standardization organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission, ASTM International, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and others.

At the same time, the UAE/TC for Oil and Gas Industry, which consists of the main UAE petroleum and gas companies, is playing a national role to unify standards use in their companies and issue them as UAE standards.

There are many international and regional standards used as references in the petroleum and lubricants industry, such as ISO, ASTM, API, CEN and the Institute of Petroleum, but ASTM is most frequently used as a reference in the petroleum and petroleum products fields.

What is ESMA's role in the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO)? What do you feel is the importance of the organization and its current work in the region?

The ESMA role in the GSO organization aims at helping GCC achieve the objectives set forth in its charter and in the GCC Economic Agreement, which reflects decisions of the Supreme Council regarding customs unity, a common gulf market and economic unity in its guidelines and stipulations. ESMA works to unify various GSO standardization activities and follow up on application and compliance of the same in cooperation and coordination with the standardization bodies in the member states. The purposes are to develop production and service sectors; to foster intra-GCC trade; to protect the consumer, the environment and public health; and to encourage GCC industries and agricultural production to enhance the GCC economy, maintain the achievements of the member states and minimize the technical trade barriers as envisaged by the objectives of the Customs Union, an agreement to limit the transaction of nonstandard products.

ESMA's harmonization of standards and unifying scheme for certification of products are the important works that ultimately will make free trade of products between member states.

What is your sense of the use and value of ASTM International standards in your country and the region?

ASTM International is one of the main sources of international standards widely used in UAE. Currently, ASTM standards are vastly used in roads and buildings, and intended for use in other sectors such as amusement parks.

ESMA has two challenges in developing standards. One is harmonizing the variety of international and regional standards used by multinational businesses or consumers and actively involve them in developing UAE standards, and the other is to raise awareness of standards among policymakers so that they can recognize their importance and reflect them in making policies.

ASTM standards provide an alternative source for compliance to international regulations. The primary advantage of using ASTM standards is the methodology used in their development and the expertise that is brought to the table during the development process. More and more international expertise is being contributed to the ASTM standards writing process.

What industry areas do you anticipate will need standards in the coming years? What actions is ESMA taking to prepare for such needs?

Standards are needed in the areas of social responsibility, fair trade, carbon emission, energy, sustainability and the environment.

Currently, we are in the process of creating national committees for social responsibility and energy. ESMA develops UAE standards by establishing national technical committees or subcommittees dedicated to a specific technology or industry sector and composed of national delegations of experts interested in the work. When consensus is reached on the content of the standard, it is circulated to stakeholders for balloting and comments, first as a draft, then a final draft, before publication as a UAE standard.

Eng. Mohamed Saleh Badri is currently working as acting director general of the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology, the sole national standards body of the United Arab Emirates. He is responsible for the formulation of policies, strategies and management of the technical operations of its four technical departments, including the Emirates national accreditation scheme, Emirates conformity assessment scheme (Emirates quality mark, and product certification scheme), metrology and UAE standards development. He is the president of UAE's International Electrotechnical Commission National Committee that is representing UAE, and he is an active member in contributing to international standards for running a worldwide electrical equipment certification scheme. Before joining ESMA, Badri worked with the Dubai municipality for 17 years.

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