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Middle East construction supply chains must unite for fire safety

by Neha Bhatia on May 4, 2018


Work is under way to improve the fire-resistance of the faades used for the Middle East's high-rise towers [representational image].
Work is under way to improve the fire-resistance of the faades used for the Middle East's high-rise towers [representational image].
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Efficient supply chain management, especially in terms of steelworks and stakeholder responsibility, could boost fire prevention efforts in the Middle East.

This view is expressed by Bob Glendenning, global fire engineering manager of Sherwin-Williams Protective and Marine Coatings' operation in Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India (EMEAI).

Glendenning lauds the fire prevention efforts being taken by Middle Eastern authorities, who he says "appear to be taking a harder line on the owners of high-rise buildings [...] and requiring them to make façades more resistant".

READ: RERA begins replacement of Dubai façades to boost fire safety

He also addresses how cladding fixed on buildings for decoration, insulation, or protection "may have contributed to the spread of many fires in Dubai over the last three years", adding: "The UAE [...] revised its building safety code in 2013 to require that cladding on all new buildings over 15m to be fire-resistant.

"But the new rules did not apply to buildings erected before that year, so the vast majority of the country’s skyscrapers fell outside the regulations. It is still not clear how tough the stance is being adopted by the local authorities, including the Dubai Civil Defence on this issue at this stage." 

Referencing recent skyscraper incidents in Dubai – including a fire that broke out at the 337m-tall Torch Tower in August 2017, and one at the 75-storey Sulafa Tower in July 2016 – Glendenning says regional fire incidents should lead to an industry-wide review of the processes and materials used for fire prevention, and how the supply chain can contribute to increased fire protection. 

"Increasingly, the industry is using complex structural steel to meet the needs of modern city construction, and with it comes a more complicated supply chain," he explains.

"However, there is no reason to accept shortcomings in best practice wherever fire protection – and safety – are required.

READ: GCC's private-sector firms are supporting fire safety regulation

"Where lives and property are at stake, structural fire engineering methods simply cannot be compromised."

Global professional bodies, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Association of Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP), are said to be working on an initiative named Plan of Works for Fire, which is aimed at ensuring that a detailed specification exists for fire protection at the design stage, as well as a schedule for fire protection during construction. Glendenning says Sherwin-Williams is supportive of the initiative, which will help to bridge knowledge gaps in the market. 

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