Posted on October 14, 2019

The global debate on building cladding, which has soared up the international safety agenda in the wake of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster which claimed 74 lives and left another 70 injured, arrives in Doha this month. Building cladding is a key feature of the Safety Design in Buildings Conference (SDiB), which runs on 16 October at The Business Park of the Crowne Plaza, Doha. The conference will feature 11 regional and international experts as speakers.

The spread of the June 2017 fire, which arose from a refrigerator electrical fault and ripped through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, was largely exacerbated by the building’s flammable exterior cladding. “In a region dominated by high rise structures, it’s not surprising that the local industry is keen to learn lessons from Grenfell,” said Andreas Rex, show director for Intersec, the world’s leading trade fair for Security, Safety & Fire Protection which is SDiB’s Founding Sponsor.  The annual SDiB campaign is a GCC-wide initiative to debate safety standards and practices in the built environment. “Like Intersec, SDiB is essential for sharing insight on improved protection of people and assets in the Gulf.”

The SDiB Doha conference will bring leading fire safety consultants, architects, engineers and testing experts together with safety systems suppliers to explore industry standards updates and debate best practice solutions. The agenda will examine retrofitting for fire safety, how to best involve design teams to mitigate fire safety risks, façade fire compartmentation and how mega infrastructure projects can meet international safety standards.

Sreenivas Narayanan, General Manager – Middle East and Asia Pacific of the UK’s Siderise Insulation Limited will outline strategies for achieving safety compliance on existing buildings. His presentation will discuss the need for safety compliance on existing structures and buildings which have been in use for some time. “The issues surrounding the cladding on a project has been a key discussion globally,” he explained. “It's important for all stakeholders involved in a project to understand what the requirements are and how to overcome the challenges. The global façade industry is keen to incorporate the best practice and I would be sharing from my recent interactions to support the local market.”

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Cristina Perez Domper, Regional Operations Manager – Product Testing and Certification Building & Construction of Britain’s Intertek will further the debate abilities to maintain and commission fire and life safety systems in high rise tower clusters – capabilities which she asserts are all too often neglected. “Fire and life safety systems are commonly engineered and designed based on the operational effectiveness,” she explains. “What is equally important but often overlooked is the ease of maintenance, testing and even commissioning. A fire safety system that cannot be, or is difficult to maintain or to test, will result in it not being tested or maintained which in turn will lead to it not working properly.”

Domper says preventative action is key to a comprehensive fire safety strategy through a building’s lifespan. “According to the National Fire Protection Association statistics, nearly 30% of fires in non-sprinkled facilities spread beyond the room of origin. To minimize this, preventative action must be taken to reduce the effects of fire on a facility, business continuity and life safety,” she advises. But Peter Van Gorp, Director of Fire and Life Safety of the USA’s AESG says lessons have been learnt and are being incorporated into new builds, though more attention needs to be placed on maintenance and testing.

“While I used to see blatant mistakes in fire safety system design related issues in the past, I don’t see those that often anymore in newly constructed buildings. What I do still see is mistakes with regard to ease of maintenance and ease of testing. “These aspects are not only overlooked but often completely ignored. Fire safety installation that can’t be tested or maintained or are difficult to test or maintain will eventually end up in non-working fire safety systems like any other installation or system,” he warns. “I hope that my presentation will move authorities, designers, contractors and anybody else involved to give the maintainability aspect of fire safety systems the attention it deserves.”

Safety for mega projects and events is also on the Doha agenda, which is essential to Qatar as it gears up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has huge major event ambitions. Andrew Cooke, Director Security Operations of Doha-based International Centre for Sport Security will outline ways of protecting major events through stadium security design, which he says, has significant bottom-line implications. “By integrating security right from the beginning of the design phase for venues, organisers can make significant savings by identifying potential threats at an early stage in the process and thus preventing expensive rework, delays, penalties and incorrect use of resources and materials later. The presentation will highlight the key requirements for delivering a safe, and secure stadia.”

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Having gained extensive experience within the fire sector and witnessing devastating effects of fire first-hand, Peter Stephenson, Business Development Manager at Warringtonfire emphasises the importance of sharing lessons learnt to mitigate fire hazards. As building assurance is extremely important, Stephenson highlighted Warringtonfire’s involvement in Doha Metro, one of the key infrastructure projects linked to the FIFA World Cup 2022 hosted in Qatar “Validating and testing all components of a fire strategy is vital to ensure the safety of all persons using or working on the infrastructure.”

“SDiB provides a platform to bring industry professionals together to learn and share experiences which ultimately enhance fire safety within the region. At Warringtonfire, we value the safety and wellbeing of our employees and consider it a top priority. This belief is reflected in our tests, inspections, certifications and consultancy services,” added Stephenson. “The key take-away at SDiB is the importance of building assurance, emphasising that Warringtonfire, with its depth of experience and industry experts, is the first choice as a trusted partner for all fire and life safety requirements.”

Delegates will also hear how digital tools can now automate fire safety. David Black, Director, Middle East Operations of the GCC’s Joule Group says despite laws and regulations, human error remains a daily risk because ‘passive assets’ - non-digital fire systems - are not prioritised. “We need to have more transparency on how passive fire assets are managed and checked building to building. This can be achieved through the use of digital platforms,” he said. “The emergence of passive protection is one factor behind the expansion of the show’s Fire and Rescue section, which is now one of Intersec’s fastest growing sections with more than 450 exhibitors and includes industry leaders such as NAFFCO, Honeywell, Komtes, Hochiki, Draeger, ATEIS, and Thomas Bell-Wright International,” explained Rex. “Additionally, the show will feature a Safety Design in Buildings Pavilion dedicated to Fire Safety in the building materials industry.”

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