With a new Fire Code due for imminent release in the UAE and high rise building owners expecting increased regulation on external curtain walling and cladding for new buildings, Coopers Fire explains how fire curtain barrier systems may be used to provide boundary protection to both new and existing buildings.
Four major fires in tall buildings in the UAE over the last four years have focused attention on the potential for external fire spread via non-fire-rated building facades. The most recent fire in a residential tower in the Ajman emirate, north of Dubai, on Monday 28 March, is reported to have spread from one building to an adjacent block. The Address Downtown at the turn of the New Year saw rapid fire spread via the external facade, with the building quickly evacuated. Similarly, the Torch fire in February 2015 resulted in severe damage to over 100 flats and in 2012, the Tamweel tower was gutted by a blaze that saw hundreds of residents evacuated.
A new Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice, due to be released in April 2016, is expected to address many of the issues relating to new buildings, placing more requirements on curtain walling and cladding products and introducing a comprehensive list of tests that must be conducted. Manufacturers selling building materials not approved by Civil Defence will be subject to prosecution and there is also likely to be a general requirement introduced for all building products and systems to be independently tested, audited and certified by approved third-party bodies.
However, there still remain concerns about buildings that predate 2012, when the problem was first identified and additional requirements introduced. The UAE’s Dubai Civil Defence (DCD) is reportedly planning a review of all buildings in the country in a bid to gauge the fire safety risk they pose, with some commentators suggesting that at least 20% of UAE building stock may be affected.
Improving tall building safety
Refurbishment of many of these existing buildings will be encouraged by the new Fire Code, which is also expected to place new responsibilities on building owners to maintain the life safety measures within their buildings. The Code will require building owners to renew a no-objection certificate annually, following inspections by Civil Defence to ensure modifications are ‘fire-safe’. However, in certain situations, glazing façade systems such as curtain walling may be too expensive to upgrade, or incapable of being upgraded to meet the environmental requirements.
Coopers Fire suggests that fire barrier curtains have an important role to play both in upgrading these existing buildings retrospectively to improve life safety as well as in protecting new projects at the point of design or construction. The company has developed a range of fire barrier curtains to meet the specific needs of boundary protection, providing architects and engineers with an approved alternative to fire shutters, fire-rated glazing and firewalls, whilst protecting windows from fire.
Fire curtains offer a practical solution where notional boundaries are infringed due to new building proximity to existing buildings or sheer building density. They can also assist in preventing vertical fire spread from floor to floor, which potentially could compromise horizontal evacuation.
Such systems comprise technologically advanced fire and smoke-resistant fabric barriers encased in a compact steel housing. The fire curtain barriers remain invisibly retracted until activated by an alarm or detector signal, at which time they descend safely to their operational position, controlled by a fail-safe by gravity system to stop and control the spread of fire and/or smoke in or around a building.
All of the vertical Fire Barrier Curtains offered by Coopers Fire can offer boundary protection and are a perfect solution to prevent the spread of fire in tall buildings.
Coopers’ FireMaster Plus fire barrier system can be installed on windows to prevent the fire from entering the building from the outside, spreading from one building to the next or from the inside to the fascia on the outside or to nearby buildings in close proximity. The FireMaster Plus2 offers 180 minutes of integrity (E) and 60 minutes of radiance (EW).
Coopers’ ViiFire fire curtain offers a compact head box in sizes up to 3m wide with a 3m drop. It provides protection for openings, boundary protection and cross corridor separation.
Coopers’ Vertical FireMaster offers integrity (E) for up to 120 minutes and 30 minutes of radiance (EW), and is available in unlimited widths and up to 8m drops.
Coopers Fire has installed boundary protection fire curtains in two iconic buildings in London, where there is a high density of tall buildings; Dover Street and the Leadenhall Building (“The Cheesegrater”). At Dover Street, fire curtains provide protection to an existing building where non-rated glazing was chosen to protect the notional boundary but there were plans to extend the height of an opposite building.
Coopers Fire Limited is a British company with a long and successful history of producing fire and smoke curtain barrier systems for installation worldwide. Every Coopers’ fire curtain is third party accredited to BS, EN and UL standards, and the business is certified to ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 14001 Environment Management. In addition, Coopers Fire is the only fire and smoke curtain manufacturer with independent third party accreditation for the installation, commissioning and servicing of fire and smoke curtains.
For more information, go to www.coopersfire.com