Updated UAE Fire and Life Safety Code

Updated UAE Fire and Life Safety Code

Awaited since the beginning of 2016, the new code was launched by Dubai Civil Defence (DCD) officials speaking at the Intersec Fire Safety Conference, being held on the exhibition's first day.

Speaking at the event, Lt Taher Hassan Altaher, head of DCD's inspection and permitting section, said the 1,384-page code – 677 pages longer than its 2011 version – has been prepared based on international references and feedback from consultants, contractors, and local property developers. Alexander Castellanos, deputy head of fire and life safety at multi-disciplinary consultancy, WSP, told ConstructionWeekOnline that the updated code "is intended to make requirements more straightforward and provide clarity for qualified fire safety professionals".

He continued: "It is relevant to note that the 2017 edition is not necessarily a new code, but an update of the 2011 [UAE Fire and Life Safety Code].

"Similar to codes in other countries and jurisdictions, it includes requirements based on lessons learned from buildings that are in operation, new technologies, and fire events within recent years.

"A major overhaul has been implemented to classify buildings according to their risk profiles and associated fire and life safety requirements," Castellanos added.

The following pages outline the top five features of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code 2017, including stakeholder responsibilities, the code's enforcement timeline, and cladding, as explained by Castellanos during his conversation with ConstructionWeekOnline.

"A new addition [to the fire code] which I believe is extremely important is dedicated to stakeholders, designers, contractors, and owner/operator responsibilities," Castellanos said.

"This addition is intended to ensure that fire safety is implemented through the life cycles of a project – [at the] design, construction, and operation [stages]."

Speaking to reporters at Intersec 2017, Altaher confirmed that authorities have specified different construction parties' responsibilities in the new code. Responsibility for fire safety will "start at the developer and go all the way to the tenant", he added. Disability-friendly developments are gaining attention in Dubai's public and private sectors.

Dubai's infrastructure is set to be revamped under the emirate's five-year plan to transform the city into a disability-friendly city, it was reported last April.

All new buildings and facilities in the city, including offices, residential towers, schools, stadiums, and parks, will be constructed to comply with disability-friendly standards.As such, the country's updated fire code also notes the need for easy access and disability-friendly design.

"A chapter dedicated to accessibility throughout design is now included in the code," Castellanos said.

The approval of fire and life safety "will ultimately remain under the jurisdiction of civil defence" authorities, Castellanos confirmed.

"We do not have any information to suggest the municipality will take over life safety approval," he told ConstructionWeekOnline.

The updated code has been drafted for new projects, or those that have not been approved or submitted for approval to civil defence authorities, Castellanos said.

"Projects that were designed and approved before the publication of the updated code are to be held to the standards set out in the 2011 edition of the code," he continued.

"However, we would recommend that where practical, the new code's requirements [are] implemented."

The testing and specification requirements for façade materials and assemblies have been further developed in the UAE fire code's 2017 iteration.

At Intersec 2017, Altaher told reporters that it took the code's formulation team "six months" to set the requirements "only for [the code's cladding] chapter".

He added: "We have [included] more details to install it in the appropriate way – that was the problem."

Castellanos said the 2011 edition of the UAE's fire code "already outlined rigorous requirements for cladding".

WSP's fire expert added: "The 2017 edition further expands on façade requirements, as it now clarifies that individual components and large-scale assembly testing and certification is now required.

"All tests are based on international standards adopted in the US and Europe.

"The base code requirements are further supplemented by the stakeholder requirements," Castellanos added.