Living in a material world
Dubai Municipality is stepping up efforts to ensure materials meet specifications. Dubai Central Laboratory's Ali Ahmed Elian argues that consultants should take greater responsibility.
What are the latest developments in Dubai Central Laboratory’s efforts to ensure certification of building materials?
Dubai Central Laboratory tests a lot of materials that are used in construction. We’re checking whether they are in compliance with the specification or not. But this is where there is a big role that the consultant must play in conducting testing on materials from time to time until satisfied.
Dubai Central Lab will very soon be doing certification for materials. That certification is done by undertaking assessments of the factories that are manufacturing these materials. We’ll be taking samples from the factories and carrying out tests to check their compliance. If we find that the factory’s materials comply with specifications, then we’ll issue a compliance certificate or we’ll give them a licence to put the DCL [Dubai Central Laboratory] mark on their products.
Until the time that such certificates are issued, while we are not implementing this scheme, it is the responsibility of the consultant to take representative samples, in accordance with the standards, and send them to Dubai Central Lab or any other approved lab in order to check their compliance with the specification. But there is a big responsibility on the consultant in making sure the correct material is used.
How will you ensure that contractors will adhere to specifications when sourcing cheaper materials?
Of course the contractor must use materials that comply with the specifications. He must have some kind of internal quality control before he uses them or submits them to the consultant. There is also a big responsibility on him to check in his own lab – because a lot of contractors have their own labs or they can use the services of other private approved labs.
How strictly will DCL implement this when it begins issuing materials certificates?
The scheme is, for the time being, a voluntary one. It’s not mandatory. However, for thermal insulation materials, it will be mandatory starting on the first of August 2005 as per [Dubai Municipality’s] Building Department circular number 132, which has been recently issued. The consultant and contractor must make sure that before they use such material, it must have compliance certification or a DCL mark on it. They are actually saving money by not having to repeat tests every time they use the material. Material with a certificate or a mark doesn’t need to be re-tested. They can, if they like, but they don’t have to. So it’s really a big save.
Do you foresee any other materials requiring mandatory testing?
It depends. For the time being, we don’t have any plan for mandatory testing because certification in most of the world is voluntary. There is a recent circular issued by the environment department requiring that paint used in residential and commercial buildings must be lead-free. Manufacturers are being encouraged to go down this route and we are doing certification for those who do. Maybe after a few months it will become mandatory.
I would assume that at some time in the future testing of other materials will become mandatory, but I don’t know. In my opinion, it should really be the consultant who is driving this. If the consultant asks for a higher standard, it will encourage the manufacturer to produce accordingly.
There is a recent circular issued by the environment department requiring paint used in residential and commercial buildings to be lead-free.
What do you feel is the biggest challenges facing Dubai’s construction industry?
In my opinion, people need to know that having a test report for a particular sample doesn’t mean the rest of the material necessarily complies with specifications. That is why using conformity certificates or hallmarks is better since it ensures that an entire delivery complies with the specifications. When you have a test report, it means the particular sample might be OK but we don’t know about the rest of the material.