Updated fire-safety code for UAE buildings adds 500 pages and more specifics

Civil Defence officials said the updated 1,200-page English version of Life and Fire Safety is being translated into Arabic and will be released before the year’s end.

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DUBAI // An updated version of the UAE fire safety code will contain more detail on specifications for cladding, mandatory requirements for owners and clarify responsibilities in construction, maintenance and repair work.

Civil defence officials said the updated 1,200-page English version of Life and Fire Safety is being translated into Arabic and will be released before the end of the year.

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

“It is taking longer than we thought but we don’t want mistakes,” said Lt Col Jamal Ahmad Ibrahim, director of preventive safety department at Dubai Civil Defence.

The updated code was due to be released in April but authorities said sections were amended to add fire tests and material checks after the lessons of the fire that took hold of the Address Downtown Dubai on New Year’s Eve.

The utilities chapter now also looks at solar power, with requirements for energy gathering panels on roofs and facades.

Other updates include specified access for the disabled and fire safety compliance at hospitals and schools.

The new code will specify school fire drills. Responsibilities of school staff and hospital management in fire safety are also outlined.

A chapter on “responsibilities of stakeholders” describes accountability of consultants, from checking qualifications of contractors, ensuring materials are from the approved list and inspecting work from construction, through to the testing and commissioning phases.

“Our strategy is that the consultant will be responsible for the building from the start of the designing until handover. So, the consultant will be responsible for materials that enter the building,” said Lt Col Ibrahim.

Residents are warned not to barbecue or smoke shisha on balconies, while owners must renew a no-objection certificate annually and inform civil defence about modifications undertaken.

Facilities management companies must check safety systems are working.

Civil defence has also detailed access approach requirements to marinas and boat yards. Tables, three-dimensional diagrams and photographs in the updated code explain road access.

“As part of the new code, apart from consultants and contractors, companies involved in installation must also be registered and licensed with us. This was not the case before,” said Pramod Challa, chief of engineering with Dubai Civil Defence.

“Comprehensive material tests have been added and, at the end of each chapter, there is a list of tests that must be carried out. Once we release the code we give three to six months, depending on the project, to follow the new code.”

Developers working on projects have been given a draft code.

Experts said identifying responsibility was key to the code.

“It starts with regulations in place that must be updated continuously to cope with the types of buildings we have,” said Michael Francis, chief architect at DEC consultants, a design and project management company.

Testing the entire facade instead of components was part of the appendix in the earlier code but that was often overlooked.

“Some parts in the annexures were vaguely worded but now these are made 100 per cent clear and part of the main code,” said Sajid Raza, a member of the Fire Code Council working with Dubai Civil Defence.

“After this comes implementation and enforcement, so there is absolutely no chance that anyone can ignore it.”