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Fire safety at height

Fire safety systems are considered one of the most vital components installed in the Burj Dubai's MEP services.


Fire safety systems have been considered to be one of the most vital components installed within the Burj Dubai's MEP services. How is this issue being tackled?

Over the past year there has been an increased focus on the types and integrity of fire safety systems that are installed in high-rise buildings.

As architects design bigger and more complex buildings like the Burj Dubai, incorporating fire safety into their design through the use of fire performance products is becoming ever more important.

This is equally true during the construction period as it is for the completed building and several measures can be taken.

Ensuring the integrity of emergency systems, providing a suitable amount of time to enable the safe evacuation of building occupants and protecting the building and its contents are the primary purposes of any systems used.

The general design of a building, including the break up of floor spaces and overall height must be considered when making the final choices.

Preparing for fire

The primary fire safety systems being installed within the Burj Dubai are the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, plus stairwell pressurisation and smoke evacuation systems. A fully-addressable fire alarm system is being installed throughout the building. In addition, the entire building from basement to level 160 is fully sprinkler-fed

The sprinkler system operates primarily via gravity, with fire water bulk storage tanks located on main mechanical floor levels and main transfer pumps filling these tanks in the basement and on level 72. Pressure reducing valves will be situated throughout the tower to reduce the sprinkler water pressure as needed during operation.

Dedicated fire pumps are used to serve external site fire hydrants, the office annex and the top of the tower from level 136 upwards, the remainder of the system will operate via gravity. Specialist rooms such as unoccupied IT rooms will have gaseous fire extinguishing systems that use FM 200 and pre-action sprinkler systems.

"The fire alarm system is used to monitor and control all of the fire life safety systems, with signals sent directly to control equipment or via the BAS (building automation system)," explains Greg Sang, Emaar assistant director - projects.

There are over 4,000 fire smoke dampers alone in the tower, all of which are monitored and operated for test purposes via the fire alarm system," he adds.

The building is provided with an integrated fire alarm and digital voice alarm system. Intelligent multi-alarm sensors that include smoke, heat and optical sensors are located in all rooms throughout the building. 

Voice alarm speakers are also being provided to all areas within the Burj Dubai, including the residential and hotel units. These will provide test, alert and evacuation messages in both Arabic and English.

Each floor can be addressed separately using the system, therefore in the event of fire detection on a particular floor that floor and those immediately above and below it will be zoned for evacuation; other floors will receive an alert message only at the initial stage.

Product considerations

Fire integrity has been considered for all materials and products installed in the building. In the electrical system, for example, Prysmian FP Plus Flex enhanced fire performance cable is being used to power the fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.

This was the first Dubai-based development for which the BS 5839-1: 2002-approved cable has been specified.

In addition, Prysmian FP400 cable has been used for essential circuits and power supplies under a £1.8 million (AED13 million) contract awarded to the manufacturer.

The length of cable being installed is over 1,300 times the tower height and it will be fitted with more than 700,000 fire resistant clips and glands.

Fire safety under construction

To ensure fire safety during construction the main contractor has installed a temporary standpipe system that feeds fire hose reels throughout the tower.

Permanent tanks will be used for water storage in the tower, but all auxiliary equipment used in this system such as pumps and pipework are temporary items that will be removed on completion of the construction phase and changeover to the permanent fire protection systems.

RELATED LINKS: Supplying skywards services, Servicing the Burj, Going up..., Cool runnings, Tower power, Pipe plans, Making initial preparations

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