Changing Structural Design Guidelines in Dubai: The Journey Towards Success

Barry Roben
Director
Irwinconsult Pty, Melbourne



In Dubai, local Authorities have a strict approach towards structural design guidelines, mainly because they aim to over-ensure the public’s safety and the quality of buildings. High design and service wind speeds, conservative seismicity, low concrete E-modulus, and high temperature loads are to name just a few. This generates a very high demand for concrete and reinforcement, leading to unnecessary add-on costs and associated high carbon emissions. These issues have been known for quite some time but authorities have not allowed any relaxation.

To be able to create a “Green and Sustainable Dubai,” with safe, economical buildings of less complexity and increased constructability, Emaar Properties created a Structural Design Committee, incorporating the world’s leading structural design and wind tunnel testing companies. For several months, detailed studies were done, data collected, and updated structural design guidelines were produced, while still providing the required building safety and stability as per internationally recognized standards and codes.

Software models were made to test and assess the differences using current and updated guidelines, comparing cost and carbon emissions. The results were: 25 percent reduction in concrete; 30 percent reduction in reinforcement; and 10 percent lower façade costs. This leads to around 7.5 to 10 percent reduction in overall building cost, while reducing the carbon emission by around 20 percent and significantly lowering the overall construction program. This exercise clearly shows that close collaboration between structural engineers and authorities can hugely benefit building construction cost and sustainability, thus creating a green environment while at the same time leading to a better economy where one doesn’t negatively impact the other.