Fit-out permits are a drain on time

Securing approvals from authorities when fitting out a property is not as straightforward as it seems Raj Khaneja, Managing Director of Rectangle Interiors

Securing approvals from authorities when fitting out a property is not as straightforward as it seems

Rules governing what can be built and how homes and offices are modified can be traced back to ancient Greece. Then, a focus on safety, particularly fire prevention, came to the fore. The Great Fire of London in 1666 led to the birth of what we now know as the Civil Defence department, and construction and building regulations were introduced for safety and general welfare as well as to protect public health. In short, they ensure safe and pleasant places for us to live and work in.

The objectives of these regulations are much the same today. Dubai has grown over the past couple of decades at an unparalleled rate, with ever more impressive structures coming up. Residences and workspaces are at the forefront of innovation, style and comfort.

A contributor to this progress has been the regulatory controls imposed through a system of approvals, inspections and certifications required for a home or workplace to be declared fit for occupancy. However, this system can also prove confusing and complicated for the uninitiated.

Dubai has one of the world’s most complex processes for securing fit-out permits. This is partly due to the various authorities in the emirate and their differing rules and procedures, be it Dubai Municipality, Tecom, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Concordia DMCC, etc. Building management regulations often differ as well.

In addition, one also has to fill out paperwork at Dubai Civil Defence as well as the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. Put all these together and you have a collection of variables that could frustrate anybody. This is particularly prevalent in commercial fit-outs. The approvals chain for residential property is more straightforward. The process of getting approvals (permissions and permits) can take a month or so if you employ consultants who can prepare all the drawings, collate the plethora of no-objection certificates and submit them in a timely manner. It could take longer with a consultant who is inexperienced or remiss. Technical competence is equally important to avoid  rejections or revisions.

The application for a typical office fit-out would include drawings from the developer, which record power availability, air-conditioning and firefighting provisions as well as dimensions and construction details, architectural drawings of the proposed layout, electrical and mechanical drawings, and the electrical load schedule. All of these must be submitted to the building management and then to the relevant authorities for approval. Only then can one apply for a work permit and commence with the fit-out.

Each authority has its own process and areas of consideration, including staged, interim and/or final inspections. Upon completion of the works to the requirements of all the various inspections and approved standards, a certificate is issued, which would then allow the company to conduct business in Dubai.

Approvals can only be secured by a licensed practitioner, typically a consultant in interior design and buildings. This must not be confused with a technical services contractor, who is reliant on the performance of others to secure approvals. It is recommended to rope in professionals who are experienced with a proven track record, whether the fit-out is for domestic, retail, hospitality or leisure purposes.

For a 3,000-sq-ft fit-out work, a rental grace period of 90 days is secured from the landlord. Top companies in the field can secure approvals and the all-important permit to work in 30 days if all documentation is in place from the start. However, the remaining 60 days can quickly run out if there are complications, so employ a contractor who is proven to deliver high-quality work within tight deadlines, and not one who gets approvals through third parties.

Working with a contractor who provides a one-stop shop solution gives you peace of mind and an assurance that you will not exceed the grace period because of delays.

Source: Raj Khaneja, Managing Director of Rectangle Interiors


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