GCC's only fire-testing lab set to turn up heat

New test to ensure cladding meets international fire safety standards

CEO, Tom Bell-Wright, is hoping the test will make a major difference to building practices in the region
CEO, Tom Bell-Wright, is hoping the test will make a major difference to building practices in the region

The GCC’s only fire-testing laboratory, located at Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants in Dubai’s Ras Al-Khor district, is preparing to conduct full-scale fire tests for building facades by the beginning of September, according to the firm’s CEO.

The test will be designed to meet British Standard 8414: Fire performance of external cladding systems, which determines the fire safety of materials used in building facades.

The standard requires the construction of a multi-storey non-loadbearing mock-facade which will be filled with the test material and ignited to examine the results.

Speaking to Construction Week, Thomas Bell-Wright, CEO, explained the process, “Basically there is an opening in the bottom of the façade and you build a sample of your cladding into this corner – 1.5m by 2.5m.

“The façade has another opening representing the building’s window which will be exposed to a fire on the inside with the flame coming out. In this opening you build a crib of wood into the specifications so that it provides a fixed amount of energy.

“You then ignite the wood and the flames rise up the building and you see whether the test material in the cladding burns and whether the flames shoot out the top or not. We think that this is the correct test to answer this question,” he added.

The GCC, particularly the UAE, has tended to the adoption of American standards when establishing its regulatory framework, but Bell-Wright feels that the British standards are every bit as good in terms of the final results.

“We think that this does the same thing and perhaps demonstrates it [real fire conditions] even better. It is a well-accepted, recently-developed test, developed in 2000, and we think that it is accessible and the right test for this region,” he said.

The cladding test is set to complement the firm’s recent addition of a Steiner fire tunnel to their facility, which digitally measures the rate at which test material, laid along the length of the tunnel, burns while also recording the amount of smoke that is generated from the reaction.

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