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Best Practices from the Dubai Building Code

Our very own Ar. Felino “Jun” Palafox, Jr. is a visionary Filipino architect who played a pivotal role in Dubai's transformation. As a former Senior Planner for Dubai's Town Planning Department, he spearheaded strategies that propelled the city to a first-world status in 15 years.

Looking to do the same for our country, here are some best practices from the Dubai Building Code that we can adopt for inclusive, safe, and sustainable urban development.

Dubai Building Code Review
Although there have been re-editions and updated Implementing Rules and Regulations, the National Building Code of the Philippines (NBCP; PD 1096) has remained unchanged since 1977, rendering it outdated for decades. Our building code must be regularly reviewed and accordingly updated to address modern construction practices, sustainability concerns, and emerging challenges in urban development.

Dubai Building Code Building Setback
The NBCP mainly regulates setbacks according to land use and zoning. Among many purposes, setbacks serve as additional open spaces for landscaping, allow extensions from public road widening, and ensure light and ventilation to ground-level spaces.

Dubai Building Code Public Spaces
While some local ordinances specify certain standards encompassing the design of sidewalks, our National Building Code is yet to incorporate more specific design standards to ensure appropriate design and installation. Design provisions for sidewalks in the NBCP — which include intervals and distances — should ultimately promote public safety and security, in addition to pedestrian comfort and convenience. 

In the Philippines, there are no specific provisions in the National Building Code specifying design parameters for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS). Only Section 8 of Department of Energy (DOE) Department Order No. DC2021-07-0023 outlines guidelines for dedicated locations of EVCS. Public and private buildings — including establishments like gas refilling stations — should install charging stations in their parking lots, especially considering the current electrification of traditional jeepneys as well as the boom of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Dubai Building Code Sustainable Materials
Specific provisions relating to sustainable materials have yet to be added in the National Building Code of the Philippines. Only its referral code, the Philippine Green Building Code (PGBC), mentions resource efficiency under Section 12 (Material Sustainability), which also lacks specific and detailed guidelines for implementation. The use of sustainable materials must be encouraged and detailed with guidelines from the national level. Provisions for strong incentives within PD 1096 and PGBC should also encourage buildings and establishments to adhere to these guidelines.

Dubai Building Code Bicycle Parking
In the Philippines, the word “Bicycle” or “bike” is only mentioned once in the National Building Code (PD 1096), showing the need for additional policies to encourage cycling as a primary mode of public and active transportation. There is also a lack of design guidelines for bicycle lanes and its supporting facilities. While the incorporation of bicycle parking in PD 1096 is a great step toward a stricter application of new urbanism in the Philippines, only a few guidelines for bicycle parking are laid out, as outlined in Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Department Order No. 88, S. 2020.