New fire code seeks safe claddings in new buildings

Older buildings also will have to comply with new regulations when they are due for maintenance

  • Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurates Intersec 2017, the world’s largest trade show foImage Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Visitors at the Naffco stand.Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
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Published: 18:02 January 22, 2017Gulf News

Dubai: The new UAE Fire and Life Safety code has stricter regulations on cladding panels to ensure flammability is “as close to zero as possible”, a top official said at Intersec Fire Safety Conference on Sunday.

The new specifications will guarantee installation of only the safest claddings in new buildings, minimising the chances of fire spreading as ferociously as witnessed in recent incidents in the country.

Lieutenant Taher Hassan Al Taher, head of inspection and permitting section at Dubai Civil Defence, said though there was no such thing as fire retardant cladding, the new specification’s “goal is to minimise it [flammability] to zero.”

“We put a lot of effort in the chapter on cladding, which we are confident will ensure the safest cladding in the world is being used,” he said. “The new rules on cladding took us six months to finalise, and the code now contains more details on how the panels should be installed in an appropriate way,” he said while addressing the conference.

He added that existing towers will have to comply with the new cladding regulations when the buildings are due for maintenance.

“There’s no deadline for that, it depends from building to building and when their maintenance is due,” said Lieutenant Al Taher.

An estimated 1,000 towers across the UAE are believed to be covered in older-specification cladding panels. Lieutenant Al Taher said he did not know how much it will cost for retrofitting the structures. “This is a big industry issue,” he stated.

He pointed out that failure to comply with the new code regulations will result in fines ranging from Dh500 to Dh50,000 for each violation.

“Inspectors from each fire station will carry out regular inspections in the areas they cover to check if the buildings are complying with the rules.”

Elaborating on the much-awaited updated code, developed in conjunction with public and private sector stakeholders, Lieutenant Al Taher confirmed said new chapters were added and existing chapters of the guide were updated in order to cope with the rapid development in various economic sectors in the country.

“The chapters we added to the new code include new requirements of villas, fire alert and alarm systems of residential villas, requirements for the boats in the marina and how they should be parked. The code also covers storage of flammable liquids and use of renewable energy,” he said.

The code has a chapter on the responsibilities for owners, contractors, consultants, engineers and community members, he added, noting that tenants also share the responsibility in fire prevention and safety.

He explained that the newly released code also contains requirements for fire and safety equipment that minimise cost for investors. “We went with the passive and active systems for firefighting equipment to minimise the cost for investors because we want them to continue investing. Investors will know the budget they have to put from the beginning of the project. It will also make all requirements clear to contractors and consultants from day one.”

While the previous Fire Safety and Life Protection code contained 707 pages, the new code has 1,562 pages, said Lieutenant Al Taher. The new code feature has 20 chapters and 784 3D illustrations.

The illustrations, are designed to help engineers comply with regulation and plan safe buildings.

Cause of fires

During the inaugural keynote address, Major General Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi, Director General of Dubai Civil Defence said at least 70 per cent of fires in buildings in the UAE were caused because of electrical circuits. Fires in generators were also one of the main causes of fires.

Dubai Civil Defence is committed to using smart systems and technologies, which will be able to “turn buildings into smart buildings and help prevent these kind of fires from happening,” he said.

“We are going to begin employing something known as the nano technology as part of our work in the first quarter of 2017 which will help in fighting fires and getting rid of huge fire extinguishers,” he said.

Intersec 2017, the world’s largest trade show for security, safety, and fire protection, is running from January 22-24 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.