Q&A International Standards

Construction Week UAE speak to Dr Jeremy Hodge about the importance of using products and following installation procedures that are certified to meet international standards for quality and safety.

In the current economic climate some firms in the Middle East are being tempted to seek cheaper options that may not have such certification, not realising the long-term implications on maintenance costs as well as health and safety aspects during and post-construction.

What benefits can be gained from using products and procedures that meet international standards?
A: Benefits will include: straightforward regulatory and compliance processes, intercomponent fit, speed of installation, reduced risk of problems on commissioning, longer lifetimes before maintenance or replacement, peace of mind for the designer.
What are the cost implications of using products and procedures that meet international standards compared to those that don’t? 

A: Non-compliant products might appear cheaper during the procurement process, but the additional costs of complete failure of materials, poor fit, rework, replacement, delays to completion etc. are rarely factored in.  Procedures compliant with international standards provide overall faster installation through familiarity, ease of inspection and checking, and choice of sub-contractor.
What international standards are typically followed in the Middle East? 

A: International standards commonly in use in the Middle East include British and European standards, American standards, and ISO and IEC standards.  Legal requirements, including third party approvals, vary from territory to territory, and are usually negoitiated with local regulators such as Civil Defence authorities.  It is usually best to stick to one system of standards and approvals rather than pick and choose between them, to avoid incompatibilities and a complex authorisation process.  Designers should take the initiative in producing an overall compliance plan for the project.
What are the current trends in the region in terms of following international standards and how are these changing? For example, are local governments moving to include such standards in law; are international standards generally followed more on large prestigious projects; has there been a fall in demand for products that meet international standards since the economic downturn began?
A: The economic downturn has affected the overall level of activity, in particular new starts on projects, rather than simply affecting price and quality.  Designers and project managers are continuing to specify and use quality products and procedures.  After all, a project with problems due to poor products or procedures will be of lower value than a project delivered on time and to high quality.  Many regulatory agencies in the Middle East are in the process of introducing new conformity requirements based on a range of international standards, for example the Dubai Civil Defence procedures for fire protection products and installation.  By referring to suitable international standards in these systems, rather than apply special rules, cost saving for international and local manufacturers can be achieved by reducing the amount of testing and approval required, so reducing the overall cost and time for the project while utilising the best of international practice.
In addition to quality aspects of using products and procedures that meet international standards, what are the health and safety benefits; and the implications of using products and procedures that don’t meet the standards?
A: Health and safety has become an important issue on Middle East construction projects, just as it is in the rest of the world.  There have been a number of serious fires during the construction process, in addition to fatal falls and collisions.  Using international-level procedures in maintaining health and safety is important for staff morale and social acceptability.  Firms with a bad reputation may lose out on future projects.  However, it is not just about the construction process, and plans for health and safety should include the whole life of the project as well, for example safety in maintenance such as window cleaning.
Is there anything else of importance regarding standards and certifications for the construction industry?
A: Projects may be planned with the best of intentions as regards specifications of product conformity to international standards, certifications and approvals, but unless these specifications are cascaded and enforced down the supply chain through subcontractors and suppliers it is possible for substitution to take place.  Designers and project managers should take positive steps to make sure checks take place at every stage, including a final inspection as goods are delivered to site, and works are underway.

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