5 Minutes with Jason Hird, Gyproc
Jason Hird, senior technical development manager at Gyproc, talks to Construction Week about fire safety and material specifications in the UAE
Construction Week examines the role of building material specifications in improving fire safety across the UAE, with Jason Hird, senior technical development manager at Gyproc.
What are the most common causes of building fires in this region? Does the hot climate contribute to fire accidents?
Most building fires can be traced back to human action, such as a misplaced candle, leaving something burning on the cooker or carelessly discarding a lit cigarette. Often fires are also started through faults in the electrical system, or poorly serviced electromechanical units such as air conditioning systems. In industrial buildings, manufacturing systems can also play a part - high temperature processes posing a particular risk. Whilst the UAE does suffer extremes of climate, our buildings are designed to cope with this, and high external temperatures are not usually a contributory factor to fires.
Is it possible to make buildings completely fire-resistant?
Since fires in buildings can be down to a combination of factors, including poor design or workmanship, faulty equipment and human error/actions, it is virtually impossible to completely eradicate the risk. Our primary objective, therefore, is to minimise the risk wherever possible through good design and use of fire-safe building materials and systems, and ensure that any fire that does start can be contained to give enough time for safe evacuation of occupants and access for firefighters.
What are the most important considerations to bear in mind while designing fire systems?
Fire safety should be a primary concern from the earliest stages of the building design. High fire risk processes and equipment should be located away from centres of occupation; the potential spread of fire restricted by sub-dividing the building into compartments, separated by fire-resisting walls and floors; and careful attention paid to the selection of building materials, particularly wall and ceiling linings, to ensure they are not themselves combustible and likely to add to either the fire load of the building, or the rapid spread of flames.
What is the ideal fire-resistance rating for buildings in the UAE? Do all developers and fire consultancies build to standards?
Fire resistance requirements vary depending on the type of building, its use, and its construction, with high rise buildings and hospitals, for example, requiring much higher levels of fire protection to acknowledge the different problems and time involved in evacuation.
Generally, the minimum period of fire performance required is 30 minutes for internal fire-rated partitions, 60 minutes for general area separation, rising to 120 minutes insulation and integrity for multi-storey applications, such as high rise hotels or apartment blocks. Occasionally, we provide systems to achieve 180 minutes, although this is normally limited to risers, shafts or areas protecting sensitive material.
There are now well developed sets of standards for fire safety in buildings across the Emirates, which developers and fire consultancies will aim to achieve. There is, however, ongoing concern to ensure that these standards are applied correctly and consistently on every new building project.
Do internal linings impact fire safety?
Internal linings, such as wall linings, partitions and ceilings, are the first line of defence should a fire start. They have a crucial role in containing the fire, reducing heat build-up, reducing the spread of flames and thus slowing fire growth, and in preventing the fire from spreading from one room or compartmentalised area to another. They are also a key component in the protection of evacuation routes and in providing safe access for emergency personnel.