Home / SPECIAL REPORTS / GCC façade experts discuss sustainability and fire safety

GCC façade experts discuss sustainability and fire safety

by Neha Bhatia on Oct 7, 2017

Dubai Creek Harbour Project.
Dubai Creek Harbour Project.

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Façade systems have been under the scanner over the past year in the UAE, since local authorities announced that a new fire code would be launched for the country’s construction sector.

Cladding is among the key components expected to be addressed in the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice 2017, and select façade experts around the country have already started adopting the guidelines.

In September 2017, Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) announced that it had started replacing building façades to improve fire-resistance in the emirate. 

Key properties where RERA’s programme has been implemented include Dubai Properties’ Executive Towers, Vision Tower, and Bay Square developments in the city’s Business Bay neighbourhood.

RERA is also urging all property owners to “replace non-fire-resistant building façades in collaboration with the city’s real estate developers”. Through the programme, RERA, the regulatory arm of Dubai Land Department (DLD), is targeting façades that lack necessary levels of fire-resistance. 

RERA’s project is based on the security, safety, and environmental requirements implemented by Dubai Municipality (DM) and the Civil Defense department.  Mohammed Khalifa bin Hammad, senior director of RERA’s real estate regulatory department, said the move supports DLD’s organisational priorities.

He added: “By replacing building façades that do not comply with our fire resistance safety requirements, we are supporting DLD’s vision of making Dubai the world’s safest and securest residential and investment destination.”

The project is aimed at taking proactive and preventative measures to reduce the incidence of fire accidents in the emirate.

Belarmino Cordero, division manager for façades at AESG, a UAE-based consultancy, says such positive regulatory effort is among the key drivers of innovation in the façade design sector.

“One of the main influencers of change is regulation – whether this involves new standards that are being implemented or old ones that are modified,” Cordero tells Construction Week.

“Examples of these efforts include the use of building information modelling [BIM] being made mandatory for architects, new fire and life safety codes that impose more restrictions on materials and testing, and regulations demanding the use of thermal breaks.

“Innovation is also driven by technological developments that make novel approaches feasible, such as photovoltaic (PV) panels becoming more affordable,” Cordero adds.

Indeed, the use of technology is steadily becoming a key part of façade design. Cordero notes that awareness about “the sustainability aspects of façades, as well as [their] performance, quality, and durability” is also increasing across the Middle East. 

He continues: “We also see that building envelope commissioning is now being demanded from design through to construction stages. More and more, computational technology such as [building information modelling] and parametric design for façade optimisation is now being introduced to façade design.”