OBG talks to Majid Al Mansoori, Chairman, Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA)

Majid Al Mansoori, Chairman, Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA)

Interview: Majid Al Mansoori

How will new building codes affect the sector?

MAJID AL MANSOORI: The new codes are a significant step in sustainability and safety for the construction sector because they create a comprehensive set of standards by which all entities in the industry must abide. This will not only create healthy competition within the sector, but should also vastly improve the end products. The lifespan, quality and environmental sustainability of all buildings will increase significantly. Finally, these improvements will go a long way in drawing foreign investment into the sector, as there will be a higher level of trust in the operating atmosphere.

How are legacy issues from prior zoning and changes in construction regulations being dealt with?

AL MANSOORI: By balancing economic, social and environmental considerations, Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 employs best practice to address the legacy issues of the past and bring the emirate into a new era of development planning and delivery. Enablers include a comprehensive development code, which applies a flexible performance-based methodology for planning. Through this approach, legacy issues of architectural incoherence, inappropriate “uses” in “mixed-use” developments, inadequate parking and lack of community services will become a thing of the past.

What is the DMA doing to position Abu Dhabi as a political, business and tourism destination?

AL MANSOORI: To embed quality assurance and attract foreign investment, the DMA is implementing a suite of customer-centric regulations and management systems into the property and infrastructure sector. These include a “best in class” building code, a comprehensive asset management framework and a “top down” environmental, health and safety management system.

To provide businesses access to data on Abu Dhabi’s natural and built assets, the DMA has developed the emirate-wide geographic information system (GIS) framework. With the aims of protecting critical infrastructure assets and expediting the lengthy permitting process, the DMA is implementing an automated review and approvals system based on the framework.

DMA function is also central to the success of the tourism sector, principally through the provision of quality services to enhance the city’s image. This includes the management of beaches and parks, public signs and amenities, all of which contribute positively to the overall visitor experience and the emirate’s brand.

What can be done to encourage more lower-income housing developments throughout the emirate?

AL MANSOORI: First, product size and flexibility need to be modified to fit the affordable housing model. Second, like all property segments, location, proximity to public transportation and community services all play an important role in the uptake of property. Third, construction and operational costs are a key determinant in creating affordable housing, as is the product’s anticipated lifecycle. The DMA’s building code is central to delivering durable, quality-assured construction for all property segments. The code balances quality and safety with economics, which benefits developers in the affordable housing sector.

What features of local development distinguish Abu Dhabi from other emirates within the UAE?

AL MANSOORI: Economic development in all the emirates affects the others. Our unity is based on economic openness and enhancing the relationship between the public and private sector. But this does not mean there are no differences in investment priorities and development projects in the UAE as a whole. Abu Dhabi, for instance, has started building nuclear power stations to meet the increasing demand for energy, and development of Masdar City, designed to emit zero carbon dioxide, is in the works. Abu Dhabi is also establishing an industrial base for aerospace manufacturing and high-tech products. These measures help Abu Dhabi stand out and diversify its economy.

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Majid Al Mansoori

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013

Construction & Real Estate chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013

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