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The Villaggio Mall fire that killed 19 people last year, including 13 children, four teachers and two fire-fighters, was an unimaginable tragedy that shook the entire region and brought home the sobering reality of how inadequate our fire safety systems really are.

A NEED FOR ALARM What can be done to raise fire standards in construction?

For this was a tragedy that could have been avoided if the right procedures and systems had been in place. Eyewitnesses reported that emergency exits were blocked, that the fire alarms and sprinkler systems weren’t functioning properly and that rescue services didn’t have access to floor plans or layouts, which all hindered their efforts. It’s clear that Qatari authorities agreed with this, given that they’ve recently announced that five people involved with the tragedy have been sentenced to six years in prison for the ‘negligence’ that caused the blaze. Given that one of these people include the Qatar Ambassador to Belgium, it’s clear that the Qatari authorities have taken this extremely seriously and are willing to make an example of the offenders, no matter who they are.


While this may bring some small measure of comfort to the victims’ families, I’d hope that the decision to jail those responsible for the safety of the mall is indicative of a growing seriousness from the authorities to enforce and maintain fire safety in the region.



This fire safety supplement brings together some of the foremost fire and life safety experts in the region, if not the world, and our hope is that their knowledge and ability serves to help educate and energise the construction industry so that tragedies like the Villaggio Mall don’t happen again. Gavin Davids, Deputy Editor

GROUP COO Nadeem Hood Managing Director Richard Judd EDITORIAL GROUP EDITOR stephen white stephen.white@ +971 55 795 8740

deputy EDITOR GAVIN DAVIDS gavin.davids@ +971 4 440 9118

COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR MICHAEL STANSFIELD michael.stansfield@ +971 4 440 9128

MARKETING MANAGER CAROLE MCCARTHY carole.mccarthy@ +971 4 440 9157

SALES DIRECTOR CARLO MENEZES carlo.menezes@ +971 4 440 9151


MARKETING & ADVERTISING PUBLISHING Director RAZ ISLAM raz.islam@cpimediagroup. com +971 4 440 9129

SALES MANAGER CAROL D’SOUZA carol. +971 4 440 9163



Database and Circulation Manager Rajeesh M rajeesh.nair@ +971 4 440 9147 Production Manager James P Tharian james.tharian@ +971 4 440 9146



Publisher Dominic De Sousa


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A NEED FOR ALARM A spate of fires has raised the importance of safety in the region. Big Project ME asks what can be done to ensure that lives and money can be saved? carefully. Fire safety is a curious beast. It sits with other building systems but is easily the most important of them. And in many cases, you only find out how good it is once. There is a major flaw in any safety system, ironically the people who buy the system and rely on it are the most likely to disarm or disable it. At a recent meeting of fire protection

experts there were horror stories of fire exits being locked because they were being used for egress by shoplifters. And fire sprinklers being switched off for days for no particular reason. Michael Kelly is director of fire safety engineering for Emaar Malls. He is a distinguished fire officer and an experienced safety consultant, responsible for




hey say that every cloud has a silver lining. And while nobody would wish for tragedy, a series of fires over the past year have placed the fire and safety industry at the forefront of change. Certainly a fire safety consultant or solutions provider would find that more potential clients are now listening more



the safety of around 100,000 people walking through the Dubai Mall and the inhabitants and staff of the Burj Khalifa. In essence two of his major responsibilities are the tallest building in the world and the largest mall in the world. But what keeps him awake at night is not buildings. “Construction is not the problem. When people see smoke in a mall they panic. There is meant to be

smoke. That’s part of the protection scenario.” His other problem is not the public but managers “most managers will not have read the fire procedures.” Peter Holland, CBE, was a fireman in Northampton. He recalls a recent test of an 8sqm construction insulated with polyurethane sandwich board, with a roof and a crib in the corner. He was not expecting an exciting afternoon.



“Fire safety is about learning lessons but more importantly learning them quickly and feeding them back into the information chain”


“I couldn’t see how this was going to get out of hand. After six minutes I was bored. On the seventh minute the fire changed completely. The panels started to delaminate and the fire flashed over. 90 seconds later we were literally running for our lives. “Fire safety is about learning lessons but more importantly learning them quickly and feeding them back into the information chain. Because construction methods are changing all the time and we need to bring real world situations back into planning very quickly.” According to figures revealed by civil defence


“The panels started to delaminate and the fire flashed over. 90 seconds later we were literally running for our lives” The UAE currently adopts a lot of its fire safety regulations from Europe or the USA. It is a young country drawing on the experience of older countries to draft its regulations. But just as it did with aviation, the UAE has the possibility to become world leaders in this field. Abu Dhabi has the very strong Estidama building code. It is largely based around green issues but has the ability to strengthen safety as well. As a new boom takes place we should allocate more resources to making our buildings more fire retardant. Any money we have left over can be used to make then funny shapes. It's not a question of whether a fire can damage a structure, but a question of when. It simply takes longer for fire to affect fireresistant materials. The key is to construct a building in which a fire would take effect slowly, allowing the occupants plenty of time to escape.



authorities in the UAE, 3,359 fire incidents were reported in the first six months of 2012 alone. The majority of these were in residential buildings and high-rises. Holland believes that each fire should pose questions such as how the building behaved during a fire, how the materials behaved and finally how the people behaved. If any of these are outside of the expectations then the first thing we should investigate is why. One of the hardest and most important aspects of fire is how to contain it. Obviously objects that are friends during normal times become enemies during inflammation, doors for example. An

important part of arresting fire is to stop it spreading throughout the building using systems such as fire protection sleeves. These essentially stop the gaps around wired and as a bonus works on an acoustic level too. Sharib Rao, is specification and product manager for Geberit says that, while the products are not yet mandatory by UAE civil defence, it is about to change. “We believe that as fire protection is such a hot topic in the region, and as the recent amendment that makes it compulsory in new builds and properties undergoing major renovations, it will become a common product in construction.” False alarms and the poor selection or maintenance of smoke alarms in buildings has encouraged occupiers of buildings to assume an alarm is a misfire or a joke. How much safer would life be if everyone who heard a fire alarm took it seriously?



Calls for fire safety in wake of Tamweel Following the outbreak of yet another fire, calls for stringent regulation and checks increase as government and industry work towards a unified fire safety code




ollowing the fire at the Tamweel Tower in Dubai calls for stronger government commitment to fire safety have increased tremendously. According to eyewitness reports, the fire started on the roof of the building (situated in Cluster U) and spread down to the flats below. Residents of the building were seen gathering in the street and inside their cars, while the flames spread


down the building. Fire alarms were said to have woken up residents, not just in the building, but also in surrounding towers. Eyewitnesses said that slabs of concrete fell off from the rooftop, leading to the spread of the fire to different floors. Some pieces landed on resident’s balconies, setting fire to those apartments. “The falling pieces of concrete fell to the ground. A few of them fell on cars

parked on the ground floor. The fire fighters were hard placed to put them out but the falling concrete endangers their lives as well,” witnesses said. Although Civil Defence sources confirmed that there were no casualties from the fire, the incident highlighted, yet again, how vulnerable high-rise towers are to fire hazards. Photographs taken during the fire showed that the cladding along the sides


be three-pronged: It would be government commitment in terms of its organs like civil defence, planning and building inspectors (investigating systems), industry commitment where cheap products (are forgotten) and we strive to be ISO and upwards in terms of standards and community.” “That’s what it boils down to, whether it’s safety of the fire protection or the safety of the system that goes in it. We’re dealing with other people’s families, and I think we have a moral responsibility,” he explained. “Awareness generally isn’t a problem; it’s the inspection, the enforcement (of regulations). Anyone can write a law, a standard, it’s about having the will or the people to enforce it and make it work. There have been

huge changes over the last twelve months at the Federal National Council and at the municipality here in Dubai.” “We’re pushing the government to adopt standards; we’re pushing this all the time. If you look at it from the point of view that this is a developing infrastructure and a developing system, with all the attached responsibility that brings to the political system, then we’ve learnt so many lessons from our communities,” Lipscombe pointed out. “We’ve learnt from our mistakes, so why should the learning curve here take just as long? We bring this experience and it must be presented in a way that’s practical, cost effective and involves all sectors of the community,” he concluded.

Stephen Lipscombe, Emirates Glass



of the building went up in flames, and in fact, helped enable the spread of the fire to the lower floors of the residential tower. With this in mind, Stephen Lipscombe, senior manager – Technical & QA/ QC at Emirates Glass, and a fire safety expert, said the industry, community and government must work together to increase awareness about fire safety and ensure that proper standards are met and followed to the letter. “5,000m2 of aluminium cladding with polyurethane contains as much benzene as a refill truck going to a petrol station,” he told Big Project ME on the sidelines of a fire safety conference. “We have pictures of buildings out here, where the glass has stayed intact, but the aluminium cladding, which self-combusts at 500°C, has burnt up, across and come back down again. The glass has stayed intact, but the building is ablaze from the outside.” Lipscombe pointed out that there needed to be increased cooperation between the three concerned sectors, so as to ensure that best practices are met and workers installing equipment are properly educated on fire safety and systems. “The ideal scenario should



Putting safety first The Yas Viceroy Hotel played host to the 3rd annual Fire Safety Technology Forum earlier this year. It took place under the patronage of His Royal Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

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s mentioned elsewhere in this supplement fire has become a very real issue in this region, given the events in Qatar and the Tamweel Tower. Dubai is very wary of having its name, like London or Rome, after the soubriquet ‘The great fire of’.


There were some acclaimed and famed speakers during the conference. Major General Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi is director general civil defence. It must be said that the civil defence has acted strongly and decisively to combat the fires that have occurred in the UAE.

In some ways it is their most pressing problem. Peter Holland CBE, adviser to the UK government, department for communities and local government, came next. He is a fireman, and his firefighters are affected every day by the decisions that the construction


is responsible for the UAE emirates being much more responsive to each other. Indeed engineers have regular meetings to make sure that the emirates are aligned in their response and planning. Steve McGuirk, county fire officer and chief executive, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, UK is an entertaining and illuminating speaker. He is outspoken and has strong opinions and this has caused controversy in the past. Last year he was attacked by the press, when he said that many

government employees were lazy and needed a shakeup. He pointed out that there was a great need to engage with the public, and that this could help to prevent fires. On previous occasions he has spoken of the fire service in ancient Rome, which actually had an evacuation plan and the ability to put citizens to death if they broke fire safety rules. While we don’t have floods, we do have fire and we apparently still have pestilence. Daniel Lucey MD, MPH, is adjunct professor of microbiology and immunology -

Peter Holland, CBE

“ensuring proper fire safety protection should be the main priority of building design and operation”



industry makes. He made the very valid point that buildings are getting higher and construction methods are changing. He believes that construction and firefighters are reverse faces of the same coin. In the end, ensuring proper fire safety protection should be the main priority of building design and operation. Joseph Glitter, director, division of risk assessment in the USNRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation was an interesting choice. Bear in mind that new desalination plants in the UAE are probably going to be driven by nuclear power. There are several people who think that nuclear power is the future for the UAE because it is more provably effective than the conventional power sources currently in operation. Major Jamal is head of preventive safety department responsible fire safety codes, bringing the first edition of UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice to life. He is the architect of UAE safety and a much respected figure in the region. He is responsible for keeping the residents of the UAE safe and he daily faces decisions that have massive effects on the lifestyle, and indeed lives of those in his care. He



Georgetown University Medical Center and an expert on deadly global virus outbreaks He is a physician who completed his training in infectious diseases and public health at Harvard University hospitals and School of Public Health. He has also worked at the National Institutes of Health in the US Public Health Service as a Consultant Physician. During the Severe Acute Respiratory (SARS) coronavirus outbreaks in 2003, he travelled to Asia and worked in a “SARS hospital” in Canada to gain first-hand experience with this new viral disease.

Similarly, from 2004-2012 he travelled to Asia and Egypt to better understand bird flu viruses. His lecture acted as a reminder that we are not safe from anything ever. As the day whizzed by we also heard from Richard Gordon MBE, director, Bournemouth University International Disaster Management Centre, UK and keynote speaker at UN World 2nd International Forum on the Integration of Emergency Management in 2012. He’s trained Bangladesh’s members of the armed forces, civil administrators and development partners on disaster management.



“fast response and measured use of resources can combat even the direst of situations”


The Armed Forces Division, ministry of disaster management, department of disaster management, Police, Fire Service and Civil Defence, ICRC, World Vision, ECGO, UNDP, OXFAM, CDMP, ADPC, and OCHA were the organisations that took part in the training. Richard is living proof that fast response and measured use of resources can combat even the direst of situations. Russell Wood, global director of solution sales, Infographics UK, told the conference how everyday items such as phones are used to administer large numbers of emergency response workers. He gave several examples of working technologies in the field, and how their use will become more widespread in the future. Nick Link, CEO at FireBug Company, bought a glimpse of how water-based technologies could develop. He is involved in misting which is where ordinary tap water is filtered down to five microns (one tenth the size of a human hair!) the water is then pressurised to over 1000PSI by high pressure fog machines. This fog can drop the outside temperature by as much as 30 degrees. Link has also intriguingly


200 industry and government professionals attended the event.

Alubond and Al Baker Tower 4 Last year the Al Baker Tower 4 was gutted due to fire. The use of non-fire rated aluminium cladding led to a fast spread of fire, leading to the evacuation of almost 135 families. This prompted the Sharjah officials to revamp the building codes to avoid such tragedies in the future. Alubond USA, with its fire rated properties was the only possible and viable solution to fit out the building. With a global presence in more than 80 countries, Alubond USA is a market leader in fire-rated composite panel cladding systems. Alubond USA was a Gold Sponsor for the 3rd Annual Fire and Safety Technology Forum; hosted by the Directorate General of Civil Defense.



Alubond USA is a metal composite panel consisting of two layers of a metallic skin like Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Copper, Zinc, Titanium etc, sandwiching a fire rated core in a continuous co-extrusion process.


developed misting decontamination capability for MI5. The conference also featured the speaker Rodrick Fraser, Fire Commissioner – Boston Fire Department – he controls the Boston Fire Department in the United States, an entity boasting a staff of over 1,400 firefighters. FINding a new perspective Conferences like these are invaluable. Oddly the principal aspects of fire have not changed in centuries. It is a chemical reaction. Yet we keep devising ways of

making humans higher and more in danger. Putting a group of professionals together fosters a keen interchange of ideas and opinions. It gives participants a chance to gain perspective from seasoned professional lecturers who are living with fire technologies everyday of their lives. These conferences are valuable and give rise to new ideas and thoughts, and bring stakeholders together. Long may that continue as governments and industries continue to demand better from and for their fire safety industries.

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Fire and facades A number of serious building fires have triggered significant public concern over the safety of façade materials. Andy Dean, of Exova Warringtonfire, discusses the issues involved, how the industry might respond, and raises questions for the future

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pacing buildings apart to prevent the spread of fire is not a new idea – it can be traced back to the Great Fire of London in 1666, when the streets were narrow and wooden buildings close together. This allowed flames and heat from one building to set fire to others across the street.


It is said that one of the strategies used by King Charles II to stop the fire spreading was to demolish perfectly good buildings to create ‘fire breaks’. This principle is still widely used today, with building codes all over the world stipulating that buildings must be spaced apart to prevent a fire in one

building spreading to others. The advent of high-tech fire resistant façades is a relatively new development and means fire rated buildings can be placed much closer together. Most buildings don’t need such high specification façade materials because they are appropriately spaced. This


potential fire spread from one compartment to another is quantified. This is an important consideration when designing a building because it will enable people to get out in time, as well as limiting damage to property.

Facade material must limit flame spread.

to-fire performances. The result is often a material classification that is used by designers to ensure the right material is in the right place with the aim of preventing a fire from starting, or limiting its spread. Fire resistance, on the other hand, mainly addresses building systems (such as walls, floors, ceilings, and doors) and their compartmentation abilities – for instance, when a fire is fully developed in a space or room, how long will it take for that fire to burn through a system into an adjacent space? Fire resistance performance is always measured in terms of ‘time’ and is used by designers to make sure

“Many codes do not require the façade to be fire-rated if other systems are used”



level of fire rating is also extremely expensive and not economically viable for ordinary buildings. Many codes do not require the façade to be fire-rated if other systems are used, such as internal sprinkler systems or perimeter fire stopping. Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between ‘reaction-to-fire’ and ‘fire resistance’. Reaction-to-fire mainly deals with materials: if they burn (combustibility); how easily they burn (ignitability and flame spread); and what happens when they burn (smoke development and resulting toxicity). Reaction-to-fire focuses on the response of materials during the development of a fire, so, for example, concrete, paper, wood, plastic and paint will each register very different reaction-

Why perimeter fire stopping is crucial Whether or not the façade of the building has a fire resistance capability, it must also perform in at least two other important fire-related ways. Firstly, the materials used have to limit flame spread – and it is lamentably apparent that some of the materials used on the buildings in the recent fires were not suitable. Secondly, where ‘compartmentation’ is required by the fire safety strategy, the gap between the façade and the building (typically at the floors), must be sealed to limit fire spread between rooms. This is called ‘perimeter firestopping’. It is extremely important, but can become ineffective if the materials used in the façade enable the fire to bypass this seal. When looking into the



(LDPE) sandwiched between two layers of aluminium (generally 0.5mm thick on each side). The LDPE typically burns ferociously once lit, but the fire has to get through the aluminium before it can ignite the core. The two tests cited above will often not penetrate the skin and therefore never ‘release the dragon’ inside – as a real life building fire might.

flame spread characteristics of a façade, it is important to evaluate the materials used in its manufacture. In particular, the combustibility, ignitability and spread of flame across the surface must be evaluated. Some test methods traditionally used to determine a material’s fire-related performance may not be appropriate for some façade materials. For example, the ASTM E84 (‘Steiner Tunnel’) and EN ISO 13823 (the single burning item or SBI) tests that are used as part of the

classification systems in key international regions are not, in isolation, sufficient to prove adequate performance. The reason for this is that these tests are often not aggressive enough, in terms of flame and heat, to challenge the material effectively. For example, a common material used in façades is ACP, or aluminium composite panelling, which falls into the genre of metal composite materials (MCM). Non-fire rated versions of ACP often comprise a 2-5mm core of low density polyethylene



“tests are often not aggressive enough, in terms of flame and heat, to challenge the material effectively”


The need for more thorough testing techniques The answer to concerns over testing these types of systems is a more aggressive fire test. NFPA 285 or BS 8414 are two such tests. These are performed on full-scale mock-ups with the wall system containing the material fixed to a test wall two storeys high. The tests simulate a fully developed fire, either adjacent to the wall or breaking out from a window. The heat release from these tests is sufficient to properly test the façade and evaluate its performance in spreadof-fire terms. Turning to fire compartmentation at the perimeter fire stopping, it is important to consider a number of issues. The idea of this system is to stop elements of a fully developed fire travelling


A question of fire safety A frequent question is: “So what happens when the glass of the façade breaks (which it generally will do in a few minutes after flashover) and the aluminium of the façade melts (which it will do some time shortly afterwards)?” This is a pertinent question, but does not remove the need to ensure that the integrity of the firestopping remains intact once any façade system failure starts to occur. If the longevity and performance of the perimeter fire stop depends on the resilience of the façade nearby, then this resilience must be made intrinsic to the design. The firestopping and the façade at this location must act as a system in the case of a fire. This may require the selection of more durable materials that are not going to break or melt

“Another important element in the testing process is the durability of a material” once the fire starts such as fire rated glass or steel framing or panelling. An alternative – and common – solution is to protect the façade area adjacent to the fire stop so it is insulated from the fire and retains its integrity for a specified length of time. Tests such as ASTM E2307 or EN 1364 (parts 3 or 4 depending on whether the façade is fire-rated or not) are examples of test methods that can effectively evaluate the fire stopping. Testing, testing, testing As implied above, the way to establish the reaction-to-fire, or fire resistance characteristics of a material or system, is to test its performance. Testing is performed in specialised laboratories, using both small-scale and large-scale furnaces specifically designed for the purpose. Another important element in the testing process is the durability of a material. Many specifications and regional mandatory requirements

(including European ones) stipulate that the durability of systems and materials is established alongside fire and other such performance criteria. For instance, it would be unsatisfactory to have a fire door with hinges that deteriorate after only a few years, allowing gaps to open between the door and the frame such that the original fire resistance properties of the door become ineffective. Key issues of façade design A well-thought-out fire safety strategy and façade design are critical. Making the whole façade fire resistant is usually not necessary, provided that the intended function and performance of the materials is understood in relation to both reaction-tofire and fire resistance. Appropriate testing of the materials used in the façade and the perimeter firestopping systems are two key aspects of ensuring that the façade and its interface with the building performs adequately.



vertically between floors, through the gap between the floor slab and the façade. It is essential to keep in mind that this is not just a ‘smoke seal’. It is generally expected that the perimeter firestopping should have the same fire resistance performance as the slab which it abuts.



From the Ground Up Big Project ME talks to some of the leading fire experts in the UAE to examine the fire safety situation in the country and what needs to improve to protect our buildings and their occupants

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espite all of humanity’s great advances over the thousands of years that we’ve been in existence, our greatest achievement remains our very first. Back in the mists of time, when our earliest ancestors learnt how to tame fire to their own uses, they had no idea it would


spark off our journey to become the dominant species on the planet. However, although we may have tamed fire that does not mean that we’ve mastered it. Indeed, it remains one of the greatest threats to modern life given that once a blaze starts, there’s only so much we can do to stop it.

A measure of just how terrifying fire can be can be seen in the reaction people have when the word is shouted out in a crowded area. Panic and mayhem follows swiftly. It’s necessary then, that all precautions be taken to ensure that buildings remain as fire proof as possible and that their inhabitants are safe.


Soleimani adds that some high profile fires in the region, in particular the ones affecting public buildings, have impacted the perception of the public on the devastating effects that fires can have on people’s lives and property. However, while interest and awareness is growing, fire safety experts continue to face challenges when it comes to implementing fire safety measures and convincing owners to move forwards with the times.

“Sprinkler systems should only be turned off when there is no chance of occupancy by humans”



After all, nobody would like a repeat of the Villaggio Mall fire in Doha, where tragically 19 people lost their lives, and five are being prosecuted by the Qatari authorities. “Over the recent years, fire and life safety is becoming more and more important in the middleeast. This is especially true in the UAE, which is one of the more advanced and proactive countries in the GCC and MENA region

as a whole,” says Afschin Soleimani, director of Fire & Risk Engineering at Ramboll Middle East. “This is due to a number of factors. In particular, over the years, the UAE has enjoyed a significant influx of fire engineering experts from around the world. These fire experts had a major influence on creating awareness of fire safety and the understanding of the latest regulations and the intent of such regulations,” he says.



FoamGlas Insulation and facades manufacturer, FoamGlas Building, says that its FOAMGLAS Compact Roof product is amongst the most lasting and reliable products when it comes to fire safety, as evidenced by fire rating tests conducted by the company. “FOAMGLAS is composed of pure glass, without binder or resins, and is therefore non-combustible. It is classified M0 in France, A1 in Germany, VI 3 in Switzerland and non-combustible in the UK,” says Marco Vincenz, sales director Middle East, for FoamGlas Building. “It maintains its physical properties right up to 430°C and the glass itself does not start to melt till after 750°C has been reached, at 1,000°C, a new foaming phase begins. The glass does not fuel, extend or propagate the fire in any way,” he adds. Although the bitumen used in the construction of roofs is combustible, Vincenz says that with a FOAMGLAS Compact Roof, oxygen is excluded from the build-up, thereby denying it a chance to spread through the building.



In addition, when installed on steel decks, the FOAMGLAS slabs are dipped in hot bitumen to ensure full adherence to the deck while reducing the required amount of bitumen (~600 to 800g/ m2).


“The biggest challenge is educating the building owners, consultants, and officials about ongoing safety protocols and procedures. The region is in its infancy stage on regulation and enforcement of product certifications,” says Mike Luna, marketing manager for Building Products/Life Safety and Security at Intertek, a USbased firm that provides safety solutions. This doesn’t mean that the market isn’t receptive to new ideas though, Luna adds, just that it’s still a very young market when it comes to fire prevention. “(The UAE) is very receptive to the types of regulations seen in other regions of the world. (But) it’s sometimes difficult as there’s no consistency on which region of the

world the safety codes are modelled after,” he says. “For instance, some European codes and standards are used and in other instances, the US codes and standards are used. Since the standards writing committees are different and instrumentation and procedures are different, the testing can sometimes be difficult for manufacturers to meet all the requirements. I think it becomes more difficult for manufacturers trying to sell their products in the region and understanding the requirements to meet.” Soleimani points out that attitudes are changing, albeit slowly, as authorities and clients become more aware of the pressing need for adequate fire protection. He points out that UAE fire safety codes are more comparable to the US codes than codes from any other region of the world. “In 2011, the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code was published by the Ministry of the Interior. This code is intended to be the applicable fire legislation throughout the UAE. It has adopted many requirements from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards, in particular


Geberit Recent amendments to the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice have suggested the use of fire sleeves in existing buildings and make their installation compulsory in new builds and properties under renovation. As such, Swiss sanitary ware manufacturer Geberit has decided to promote its Geberit Fire Protection Sleeve RS90 Plus EN in the region, believing that the market for the product will be significant in the near future.

reference when selecting fire safety products. “There is some disparity in the acceptable codes more on a project basis, although the ADCD and DCD accepts internationally recognized standards such as UL/BS and EN standards when approving products,” he says. “Projects especially will sometimes only accept the codes/standards of where the engineers originate from or in some situations who the client is and where they are based.” “This can cause confusion as on some projects the manufacturers product may not be deemed acceptable to be used although it fully complies

With these sleeves able to be retrofitted into older buildings, Schmied believes that there’s going to be a significant uptake in the market following the amendment to the Safety Code. “We believe that as Fire Protection is such a hot topic in the region, our Fire Sleeves will become a common product in construction.”

“The UAE is now united in its response. Engineers from every emirate meet to ensure standards are high”



NFPA 101, which is the “Life Safety Code”,” he explains. “In some cases , such as the section related to the provisions for fireresistance ratings, the UAE code has adopted a more restrictive stance than NFPA. For example, while the NFPA requires a 1/2-hour fire-resistance rating for corridor walls of a sprinklered apartment floor, the UAE code would require a 1-hour fire-resistance rating in that instance. The UAE code also includes exit stair and corridor width requirements that are slightly more restrictive than NFPA,” Soleimani explains further. However, Gautam Arya, managing director of Procon Emirates, a leading fire protection contractor in the UAE, says that one of his concerns is that certain engineers may resist using the local code as a

“Geberit provides intumescent fire sleeves. Intumescent collars can be fitted using any means of installation,” says Stefan Schmied, managing director and head of Gulf Region, Geberit. “Collars are to be installed using metal wedgestyle staybolts. Each has four fixing locations and any gaps between construction and pipe penetration are to be filled with a fire rated intumescent mastic,” he adds, explaining the installation process of the sleeves.


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“it is the responsibility of the community as well to ensure that all of us respond to these initiatives” for only 60 minutes while other areas may be 120 minutes. But there is still no clear code within the region,” he says. While NAFFCO CEO Engineer Khalid Al Khatib, agrees that there is a still a lot of work to be done before the UAE and its neighbours catch up to the Western world, there are promising signs for the fire safety industry. “Civil Defence and government are working hard on raising safety awareness,” he says. “However, it is the responsibility of the community as well to ensure that all of us respond to these initiatives. For instance, we need to see more fire drills in compounds and towers. (People) have to be trained how to escape smoke – this is everyone’s responsibility,” Engineer Khalid suggests. “We need to make sure that residents and security guards know how to use a fire extinguisher effectively, for instance.”


WIWA WIWA Middle East is a registered company in the UAE and has a facility in Jebel Ali, Dubai. This facility not only acts as a warehouse to stock equipment and spares, but also for training, demonstration, service, maintenance and rentals. The 250sqm facility houses offices for sales and technical staff, a conference cum training room and storage space for equipment. A purpos-built spray booth is being designed and will be set up in the near future, says Robert Jansen, sales director of WIWA Middle East. The concept has attracted the attention of coatings manufacturers and contractors alike. The company has already conducted training and certification for a potential client from Abu Dhabi and a major manufacturer has used the facility for almost a week, Jansen says. “We have a string of requests in the pipeline and see the concept really gaining momentum and resulting in much better visibility for WIWA in this region. Material manufacturers are always keen to test their materials in the extreme climate of the Middle East and our facility gives them that option away from their R&D centers, which are predominantly in more temperate climates,” he adds. He adds that WIWA Middle East were in the midst of tying up with some new partners in the region, whom we hope will share our ideology and concept of providing efficient solutions to our clients.



with the locally acceptable product requirements of the authority having jurisdiction,” he warns. As such, he suggests that there be a clear code in the region that ensures that all engineers, contractors, clients and suppliers are on the same page, in regards to fire safety. “There is no one clear guide for fire rating periods, some projects will follow the NFPA codes but it is not used on every project. Certainly in the structural steel market the norm over the last 5 years has been generally 120 minutes fire protection regardless of the building use or size,” Arya explains. “In more mature markets like the UK fire ratings are decided based on a number of factors (ie. boundary conditions, buildings use and size and time required to egress). We are now starting to see different areas within a building looking in more detail at fire rating periods, roof structures protected



Khalid Al Khatib, NAFFCO CEO



However, if there was one thing he would insist on, it would be that builders and consultants use what he calls ‘quality listed products’, which have been fire rated and tested, thereby creating an effective tool for both passive and active firefighting, he says. “Awareness is improving all the time, but it is a process and must keep going on.” This emphasis on increasing awareness is something that Garald Todd, head of Fire & Life Safety at WSP Middle East, can get on board with. He tells Big Project ME that while the UAE’s Fire and Life Safety Code is a ‘positive’ step in the right direction, FM companies also have to play their part in ensuring buildings and properties are kept safe and secure from fire.

“Regardless of how old a facility is, we recommend that a complete assessment is done on the existing design and installation to assess if there are any legacy issues with the system present. As the quality of design and installation throughout the region has been varied, it’s important to understand what the FM teams actually have, first and foremost,” Todd says. “We’ve seen systems that have been ‘maintained’ by companies who check these systems, but merely as an operational test,” he adds. “These tests do not actually ensure the system will operate as intended,” Todd warns omniously. His two main areas of concern are the competency of contractors installing equipment and the appropriate maintenance of building systems. “(As such), it’s a matter of education. We work very closely with Civil Defence and contractors in raising awareness for the need of inspections throughout the construction process and ensuring competent qualified third parties are involved in witnessing the testing and commissioning to ensure the intent of the strategy and system installations is maintained,” he explains.


FSI FSI (FM Solutions) Limited is a company that supplies building services and facilities management software to FM contractors, so as to help improve the lifecycle, operations and efficiency of buildings. Amongst their building management solutions, the company offers technology that “compliments other technology within a building, such as automated monitoring systems within a building,” says Adrian Jarvis, general manager of FSI (FM Solutions) Middle East. “We’re a developer and implementer of a computer aided facilities management programme that are used by both service providers and the owners and stakeholders in buildings,” he explains. “We spend lots of time talking to people within the building services industry, people who need to manage buildings from a property management perspective, from a maintenance management perspective, to ensure that we understand what they need and to ensure that we’re not where they need to be just today, but tomorrow,” he adds. “We can be capturing those requirements and bringing things into our software to help them.” Furthermore, he points out that there has been significant changes in the way the UAE market is approaching the adoption of FM technologies, to make their buildings more secure. “I’ve seen great changes in the last four years, people are understanding all these buildings that exist here, they’re not going to look after themselves, and they need information to help them manage them and extend the lifecycle of these buildings, and help manage them and keep the value of the buildings as an asset, as a piece of real estate,” Jarvis says. “So this market is moving at pace, in terms of its maturity, with the UAE leading that understanding across the Middle East. Other countries are coming up to speed at slightly different rates, but certainly the awareness is spreading very rapidly.”


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Big Project ME Fire Safety supplement for July  
Big Project ME Fire Safety supplement for July