Big 5: Cost-cutting fuels fire fears

Contractors implementing bare minimums of safety

ENAS chairman Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad presented the lab?s accreditation to Tom Bell-Wright in October
ENAS chairman Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad presented the lab?s accreditation to Tom Bell-Wright in October

The firm which operates the Middle East’s first furnace for testing and certifying fire rated doors and partitions has warned that cost-cutting on construction is driving contractors to build according to the bare minimums of safety.

Tom Bell-Wright, CEO of Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants (TBWIC), said that contractors needed support from architects and project managers to ensure properly fire-tested materials were used on projects.

“The nature of low-bid, lump-sum contract awards is to discourage the contractor from doing anything more than he absolutely has to, and to turn a blind eye to anything which might complicate or slow down his work,” said Bell-Wright. “The impetus for building to correct standards must come from either the local authority, or at least from responsible architects with knowledgeable project managers who have the necessary integrity.”

Bell-Wright pointed out ensuring materials had been tested adequately would help create safer buildings.

“Fire doors and fire rated walls are located in every building with the exception of single family homes. Their locations are mandated by building codes, the local Civil Defence or good practice, and they are critical for protecting the occupants in the case of a fire, either in containing the fire within a specific area, or in providing a safe exit-way for people to evacuate the building,” he said. “Every ‘demising’ partition in a commercial building separating one tenant's space from another's should be fire-rated, and if it is restaurant kitchen, for example, it needs a higher rating.”

October saw TBIWC’s lab receive accreditation from the Emirates National Accreditation Service (ENAS).

“There have been many major fires over the last few years and hopefully the presence of this testing furnace will now make it easier for builders to comply with the regulations and help make our buildings safer to live and work,” said Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants CEO and founder Tom Bell-Wright.

He added that the lab was accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) in addition to ENAS, meaning test certificates from the lab are acceptable to any authority, anywhere.
 

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