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The UAE needs fire safety framework for existing buildings says Jensen Hughes

Having made progress with its fire code for new construction, the UAE reportedly now needs to focus on implementation, as well as developing a policy framework for existing buildings.

Speaking to Construction Week, Shamim Rashid-Sumar, vice president of development for the Middle East at engineering and consulting firm Jensen Hughes, commented: “I believe we have made a lot of headway with our codes and regulations, and we need to continue our focus on the implementation, and making certain what is installed is what was intended.

“The larger concern is that the new [UAE Fire and Life Safety Code] only covers new construction, and we have numerous older buildings and facilities without a regulatory framework for retrofits or renovations. This will be the major challenge moving forward.”

According to Rashid-Sumar, while the updated code includes “noteworthy changes”, it primarily consists of “clarifications to existing or previous requirements, including more tables and figures”.

These clarifications make it easier to understand the intent of the code, she elaborated, noting that the code also details the responsibilities of the different stakeholders in the building industry.

“The new code has a chapter on roles and responsibilities, which outlines the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the fire protection community, not just the owner or consultant but also the contractor, testing agencies, house of expertise, and other specialty consultants. The code clearly defines where the responsibilities lay for each stakeholder, and assigns responsibility beyond the design phase,” she added.

She explained that under the new code, contractors “now have an obligation to ensure they install what was designed and approved by the Civil Defence”.

“The Civil Defence and HSE consultants are involved with reviewing and completing inspections during construction to confirm that the material installations follow the design and approved installation strategy.”

The updated fire code, launched in January last year, may see a March 2018 release, Rashid-Sumar said.

Last week, the UAE’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced the launch an online fire system application service.