Civil defence gets tough in wake of mall fire
Experts say rules on changing use of space being strictly enforced
Speaking at the MEP Conference 2013 in Doha's Courtyard by Marriott hotel, Stephen Humphrey, a head of programme cost consultancy at Davis Langdon said that the main change in attitude by fire safety officers is that "modifications without recertification is just not allowed".
He added that if a building owner also decides to change space previously identified as vacant won't be able to do so without gaining re-certification.
"We've seen the number of illegal or non-approved modifications being eradicated," he said. "What we're seeing is a tightening of the rules - the rules have already been there, but they are being applied."
Humphrey added that since the incident, the prominence of fire safety in the country has significantly increased. "Sensitivity has increased ten-fold," he added.
He also urged building owners to ensure that that the fire systems in completed buildings match those in the approved designs for which building permits were granted.
"There are a number of buildings sitting around empty that can't be opened or operated because what has been built doesn't relate to what was submitted," he added.
Gavin Campbell, senior vice-president of Intertek's building products division, said that it had also witnessed an increase in retroactive testing to see whether products used in fire safety are the same as those approved in designs.
Graham Clayton, an associate in Ramboll's Building Services department, argued that manufacturers can sometimes find their products are no longer accredited if changes are made to building codes, or if there is a shift in which international or local building codes are adopted.
He said the best way of dealing with this was to ensure that products adhered to the strictest standards. Although this will increase upfront costs, it also lessens the chance of products effectively becoming obsolete.