The Shaikh Saeed House in Shindagha is a Grade A building and is inspected regularly. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: At least five more museums are expected to open within the year, as part of the municipality’s stand towards converting old houses into cultural areas of interest.

All houses that are at least 40 years old have been evaluated scientifically by Dubai Municipality, and depending on their historical relevance to the country’s history, are preserved accordingly.

While some old houses are maintained and upgraded according to Dubai Municipality’s rules not to be destroyed, others have more lenient regulations to adhere to and although upgraded, can be converted into restaurants and shops.

Speaking to Gulf News, Rashid Bukhash, Director of Architectural Heritage Department at Dubai Municipality, explained that buildings built before 1974 are surveyed according to their historical, architectural, historical, economical, social, and tourist value.

“Through their value, buildings are given points ranging from grade A to D, which is based on the British, French, American and other Arab standards. According to the point value system, we will then assign different regulations to each building,” said Bukhash.

Grade A buildings include Al Fahidi Fort, Ahmadiya School, and Shaikh Saeed House, and require complete attention to be taken, inspections are carried out at least twice a year to ensure that there are no cracks and the buildings are properly maintained.

“Changes to Grade A buildings are extremely restricted and you cannot demolish the walls. In B graded buildings, if the house is to be changed into a museum, the outside exterior should be kept the same but interior changes [relating to ventilation] can be made,” he said.

There are even fewer restrictions to C graded buildings and additional rooms can be made. Grade D houses can be demolished as they are not very valuable.

Buildings rated A and B cannot be demolished, but if they are rated below that, owners can apply to demolish their buildings. The World Trade Centre has also been categorised as a Grade A building and even though it was built in 1979, it has social importance because it was the Gulf’s first skyscraper.

“But before the buildings can be demolished, Dubai Municipality has to carry out a survey and if there is any element of importance and on its history, then some of these buildings will not be allowed to be destroyed,” said Bukhash.

Old buildings are restored based on a committee’s decision, which will analyse the suitable use of the building. Buildings in the museum area, such as Al Shindagha, are likely to be converted into museums while those in the market area are likely to become shops.

“It is a continuous process and there are about 192 houses in the Al Shindagha area, and we have already allocated a plan to convert them into museums, residential homes or commercial shops. And many more will be coming in other areas,” he said.