Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Rapid development of Dubai has contributed to high-rise fire problem

Experts explain the reason for frequency of fires on day one of the 7th annual Middle East Firesafe conference.

DUBAI // Fire-safety experts are facing up to the unique challenges posed by rapid development of high-rise buildings.

Speakers at day one of the 7th annual Middle East Firesafe conference said countries developing more quickly are at greater risk from fires, due to the widespread use of combustible cladding. Other issues include fire-safety regulations being able to keep pace with building development.

“One of the factors that affects the frequency of fires in tall buildings is when the developments actually happen,” said Professor David Charters, a fire engineer speaking at the Dubai summit.

“One issue we are dealing with in Europe, the US and here in the UAE is combustible cladding.

“If you were a country developing very quickly at a time when this method of construction was popular, and it was happening before standards and legislation caught up with it, there is a more significant legacy there.

“In these countries, we are seeing a higher frequency of fires in tall buildings, because buildings have been developed more quickly.”

In four years, Dubai has seen four major fires in high-rise structures fuelled by combustible aluminium facades, the most recent at the 75-storey Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina in July.

The Address Downtown Dubai was the most high-profile incident, on New Year’s Eve last year, but there were also major fires at The Torch last year and Tamweel Tower in 2012.

According to National Fire Protection Association figures, the deadliest hire-rise fires since 1970 have occurred in America, Brazil, South Korea and Japan.

An updated version of the UAE fire-safety code, with specifications for cladding, mandatory requirements for owners and clarification on responsibilities in construction, maintenance and repair work, is due for publication later this year.

The guide will also address accountability of consultants and lay out requirements for marinas, schools and hospitals.

“There are many factors that are associated [with high-rise fires] but there are many good professionals working in the design and construction industry who are doing good work,” Prof Charters added.

“There is always the potential for incidents, so we should not let our guard down. In the few fires we’ve seen recently in Dubai, they have been external fires. We need to highlight the measures that were taken that helped them [people] to escape but we should not sit back on our laurels.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: October 18, 2016 04:00 AM

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