A New Chapter for ASTM International

The Launch of a Chapter in the UAE Boosts Relationships in the Middle East

A chapter can mean a branch of an organization. It can also mean a new section of a story. With the newly organized ASTM International United Arab Emirates Chapter, “chapter” captures both of these meanings.

The new ASTM International chapter, its first ever, launched Sept. 23 at the One and Only Royal Mirage in Dubai. 

And as ASTM International’s 2019 chair of the board, Taco van der Maten, noted in his launch keynote speech about the meaning of chapter, “We also open a new chapter in the story of ASTM International’s relationships in the UAE.”

Dozens of professionals representing industry, government, and academia attended the launch program, which was sponsored by Knauf, a German-based manufacturer of building materials.

Rashid Bin Fahad, Ph.D., president of the new chapter and a former member of the ASTM International board of directors, welcomed attendees. “The UAE has been a pioneer, with many successes, including in standardization,” Bin Fahad said. He also noted the chapter will work closely with local authorities and academia on the use of standards. He added, “This will support local research and research projects here in the UAE.”

“There is something very special happening between the UAE and ASTM International,” added Katharine Morgan, president of ASTM International, in her welcome. “We are ready to deepen ASTM International’s relationships in the UAE, and more broadly the Gulf region, more than ever before.”  

Setting Goals

  • The new UAE Chapter has three primary goals: 
  • To strengthen the involvement of UAE technical experts in standards-related activities and events to help meet the region’s needs;
  • To share information on the UAE’s and the Gulf’s societal needs and emerging trends so ASTM can develop solutions; and
  • To provide a direct link between the UAE and ASTM International.

Already, plans are being made for the November chapter event, a tour of the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council (QCC) lab. And in January 2020, chapter members will visit UAE University and speak with engineering students there. General chapter meetings will be held twice each year with other special events to be arranged as well. 

The initial focus of the chapter is construction, and the chapter plans to work closely with the UAE standards body, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), to further standards for construction materials. Chapter launch attendees also indicated their interest in future technical presentations on topics such as sustainability and energy efficiency, performance-based design, and fire safety.  

Reflecting the initial focus of the chapter, the technical presentation at the launch covered the role of standards and buildings. R. Christopher Mathis, president of Mathis Consulting Co. and a member of the ASTM International board of directors, delivered the presentation, “Buildings, Energy, and Market Transformation: The Essential Role of Standards,” and spoke of the need to better understand the buildings we live and work in. 

In addition, Amer Bin Ahmed, managing director of Knauf Middle East and a member of the ASTM International board, gave remarks that highlighted Knauf Middle East’s journey to an entire construction system. “This is where our technical team and our local team, with the help of ASTM, put together a system which is one and only in the world of drywall and construction and the UAE,” Bin Ahmed said. “40% of our products are exported outside the UAE. This is a milestone achieved for the UAE, Knauf, ASTM, and for the future construction industry.”  

A Long-Awaited Achievement

James Olshefsky, ASTM International’s director of external relations, says that the idea of establishing an international chapter of ASTM has existed for some time. 

“We have a strong group of countries in the Gulf region and the Middle East that are active in referencing and adopting our standards,” Olshefsky says. “There was a sense that with the international work we were already doing, we needed more sustained connectivity, more face-to-face interactions with people rather than just periodic visits,” Olshefsky says. 

ASTM has memorandums of understanding with the individual Gulf standards bodies as well as the regional body, the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO). Hundreds of members and customers are based in the Gulf. 

Ahead of the September meeting, planning meetings brought together more than 25 key involved stakeholders, including new chapter officers Bin Fahad; Anwaar Al Shimmari, chapter vice president; and Bader Khamis Al Shemili, membership secretary. 

Looking Ahead

A sense of excitement and anticipation ran through the launch event, according to Olshefsky, and attendees were looking forward to learning more about new technologies, tracking emerging trends, and networking.  

The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, a business organization that advances trade between the two countries, is also pleased by the new chapter, said Danny Sebright, president of the council.

“The opening of ASTM’s first international chapter in the UAE demonstrates the importance and the growing strategic role that the UAE plays in international business,” he said. “It also illustrates that the UAE’s leadership is committed to adopting global best practices in standards in the UAE and throughout the wider region.”

In drawing the launch event to its conclusion, Olshefsky invited attendees to share what activities they would like to have planned and to further their involvement with the chapter as well as to invite colleagues to participate. For more information, contact James Olshefsky, ASTM director of external relations (+1.610.832.9714; jolshefsky@astm.org) or Nick Ecart, ASTM senior director of business development (tel +44.793.2103758; necart@astm.org).

Jean Thilmany is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has written for Mechanical Engineering Magazine, Engineering.com, and other publications.