Dubai has learned lessons from 'high-profile' fires, says official

Published: 8 January 2019 - 12:30 p.m.
By: Oscar Rousseau

Lessons have been learnt in Dubai following a string of building fires in the city, according to Gary Strong, global building standards director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

Dubai has “learned” from the experience of “high-profile fires” and understands the significance of pre-construction safety procedures, Strong told Construction Week.

“Dubai has been hit with several high-profile fires and has already learned from these experiences, [as well as] the need for large-scale testing of proposed façade systems before construction takes place,” he said.

As well as being a director at Rics, Strong chairs International Fire Safety Standards Coalition (IFSS), which was formed in July 2018 to improve global fire safety principles.

The IFSS Coalition is worried about more than just façades, Strong warned.

“The [group] is concerned about all aspects of fire safety in the design, construction, and management of buildings and infrastructure,” he said.

“Often it is those buildings already constructed, to old codes, which represent the highest risk and the largest number of buildings by type. Inspection and upgrading of existing buildings and infrastructure to modern fire standards should be uppermost in any safety-conscious and ethical society.”

Backed by the United Nations and the World Bank, the IFSS Coalition wants to share best practice guidance from industry experts to create standards and improve fire safety in construction and building management. It covers more than 130 member bodies internationally, including the Middle East, and all of them “have to comply with IFSS”, said Strong.

“Recent building fires in various parts of the world have demonstrated that there is inconsistency in fire safety around the world, and in some countries, standards are entirely lacking. The coalition aims to share best practice guidance from leading fire safety experts and develop standards that can improve fire safety in as many countries as possible.”

While Strong warned of a lack of fire safety standards globally, he admitted there is limited evidence to suggest whether building fires are rising or decreasing.

“Unfortunately, statistics on fire are very unreliable. At a recent fire summit in Paris, this was discussed and it was agreed that the data is unreliable and inconsistent in the way it is recorded in each country – some countries do not record fires at all.”

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