Secret to Maintaining Safety and Asset Value

Douglas Ralph, CPI
Managing Director
Snag & Inspect

By LoveLy CLaire CD, Special to Freehold

The continuing rise in the number of new developments and homebuyers’ discoveries regarding building faults and problems have brought facilities management (FM) into focus. Not just homebuyers, other investors and tenants in buildings are affected by the quality of FM services, or the lack thereof.

Facilities management in the UAE

The facilities management (FM) industry is growing as business volumes in the UAE continue to grow, stabilize and mature. FM enables clients to make their buildings more suitable, healthier and energy efficient. Misconceptions and stereotypes, however, still exist as to the real function of an FM company. Generally, FM companies are often perceived as property management companies as well as maintenance companies. A qualified FM company is focused on cost-effective, long-term utilization and value preservation of owned assets. A property management company is focused on short-term lease returns like the day-to-day operational aspects of a building or facility.

Despite the confusion, industry experts and leaders believe the FM sector has evolved and matured about halfway to where it needs to be. Now most developers and property management companies truly understand the significance of qualified FM in building and asset maintenance and management.


Problems in UAE buildings/structures

With our various building inspections in the UAE, we have picked three very common issues: the poor installation of waterproofing systems, the poor installation of electrical systems and improper or lack of installation of thermal insulation.

Improper installation of waterproofing systems in several high-rise buildings in the UAE is rampant. These effects become apparent through damp walls, peeling paints, water penetrating to basements through foundation walls, etc. This has a great impact on the building envelope and the long-term value of the building. Failure of waterproofing in bathrooms is another open issue leading to water damage, mold and other associated problems within the units.

Faulty electrical systems due to improper wiring and non-installation of junction boxes per the DEWA Electrical Code are a common sight. Non-code compliant wiring is a potential risk to life and safety. Usage of plastic electrical connector blocks, which is a common method used in the UAE, is not DEWA Electrical Code compliant, and can potentially cause electrical shock and is a fire hazard. Another problem involves frequent false fire alarms caused by improper installation, commissioning and maintenance.

Improper installation of thermal insulation inadvertently causes energy loss in buildings and villas as hot/ humid air leaks into the building and/or cool air leaks from the A/C systems to outside of the building. These losses in efficiency require huge amounts of additional energy to make a building comfortable for the tenants, which increases the operational costs.


Value of professionalism and high standards

The reason why these issues became so common is attributed in part to the trend of employing untrained, low-paid workers who are not experienced to the point of completing projects thoroughly to specifications. A mandatory inspection through the building process with trained and certified inspectors is a key to minimize if not totally prevent occurrences of these common and costly construction defects.

The UAE is a lucrative market; however, the rate of the construction growth in relation to code implementation and enforcement is failing. Nonetheless, it is a positive indication that the UAE is trying to address the challenges. Some developers appreciate the need to employ third party independent inspections during the building process and completion. They have come to realize that onsite consultants do not fulfill their responsibilities, and the costs of repairing defects due to poor workmanship and code violations at a later date far exceed the cost of independent inspection during the building process. Independent inspections help minimize future lawsuits.


Inspections in the UAE
• UAE Building Departments and Civil Defence offices review structural, fire and life safety details of every building. Civil Defence carries out frequent investigations to ensure that buildings are code compliant
• Dubai Municipality has also formed a small team of inspectors to conduct random inspections in specified areas
• Private inspection companies are also hired by property owners and corporations to conduct various inspections suitable for their needs. This can be from building handover to a new owner, to specialized in-depth solution investigations