Qatar’s influential Advisory (Shura) Council has called on Civil Defense to take less time to approve newly constructed buildings by shortening the inspection process, among other things.
The message appears to have resonated with the government department, which made a “firm promise” yesterday to reduce the number of requirements for buildings between three and eight stories tall, according to Al Raya.
The opening of new apartment buildings, hotels, shops and offices is frequently delayed in Qatar as property owners wait for Civil Defense to certify that a building is safe and can officially open.
Amid a growing number of complaints, the Advisory Council agreed to study the issue last month and released several recommendations at its weekly meeting yesterday.
Members said they understand the importance of Civil Defense’s standards in ensuring that buildings are safe, but added that the approval process takes a long time and hurts business owners who are losing money as a result, according to Al Raya.
The newspaper said that in addition to reducing the number of procedures, the council said there should be more consistency in how Civil Defense inspects buildings and that the department should not be allowed to change its mind after approving a building’s blueprints and design.
These proposals still need to be approved by the government cabinet before being implemented. However, Civil Defense said other changes are in the works.
For example, the department said it is meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to discuss the procedure of renewing business registrations so that inspectors will no longer need to visit premises that are relatively new and have been recently inspected, Al Raya said.
Nevertheless, Civil Defense officials reportedly told the council that it’s the private building contractors, not government inspectors, who are responsible for the delays.
Often, a building is not approved because inspectors find that fire pumps, alarms or ventilation systems are not functioning, representatives told the council, adding that some building owners pressure contractors into wrapping up a job even though it hasn’t been properly completed, according to Al Raya.
Civil Defense representatives also questioned the capabilities of some engineers and architects operating in Qatar who repeatedly submit blueprints and plans containing serious faults, the newspaper said. In one case, plans were submitted and resubmitted eight times without the necessary changes being made, representatives told the council.
However, some property managers have previously noted that Qatar’s regulatory landscape changed following the 2012 Villaggio Mall fire, leaving some unsure of the requirements.
In early 2014, representatives of Dragon Mart on Barwa Commercial Avenue said their delayed opened was due to Civil Defence licensing issues:
“The country’s fire regulations have become much stricter since the Villaggio fire, and they want to do more to ensure it’s safe,” an official said at the time.
Civil Defense did acknowledge this week that its internal procedures could be streamlined. Al Raya reported that officials said that the authority to approve some projects has been delegated to senior officials and no longer requires the signature of the director of Civil Defense.