Gulf Fire recently caught up with David Campbell, who is Divisional Director Middle East and India, Fire and Building Products at Al Futtaim Element Materials Technology Dubai LLC (incorporating Warringtonfire) to discuss his career, role and what he sees as the important key developments within the Middle East region.
Gulf Fire: What is your background in the industry? When did you join Element, and what did you do before?
I began my career as a firefighter in Australia with the Melbourne Fire Brigade when I was 19. While working there, they supported me to study applied science fire technology and eventually I went on to study fire engineering. I then decided I would like to spend some time abroad, so I worked with an NGO on emergency response management and planning in Cambodia and environmental research in Indonesia, and eventually I landed in Qatar in 2009. I’ve worked for a few businesses during my time here, including managing a testing laboratory and leading the Doha Airport independent third-party review of fire systems and inspections projects for three years, before joining Al Futtaim Element as General Manager Testing, Certification and Inspections in September last year.
Gulf Fire: What does your current role entail?
I see my role as a support function for the most part. Of course I am also involved in steering the direction of the business, ensuring that we’re working to the standards expected of our customers and the Element Group, keeping track of the day-to-day function of the business and the other usual responsibilities of a Divisional Director; but what I really enjoy is providing support and guidance. I’ve been fortunate to work in a variety of roles across several organizations, and across multiple countries, and I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way. I work across both Element’s testing and certification business and the Warringtonfire consulting and inspections service, and I enjoy supporting the entire team with advice and new ideas and seeing some really great projects come to life.
Gulf Fire: What role does a testing, inspection, certification and consulting business like Element and Warringtonfire play in the industry?
There are a number of practical functions we can support customers with, but broadly we see ourselves as an advisory support service. We can apply our work to any phase of a building’s life cycle but we encourage customers to engage us from the outset so we can consult at the design and construction stages so we can lend our expertise to optimize and add maximum value to the design.
Contractors often engage with us because they need to ensure their designs meet regulations; that everything on a building site is up to code, or that their fire doors have been installed correctly. However, we believe that customers receive the most efficient and cost-effective service and results when we are utilized as trusted advisors throughout the life cycle and can establish a longer working relationship with them. The more we become an extension of their team, the more effective we can be in our support.
To be more specific about the role we play, we offer testing, inspection, certification and consultancy services. Our testing services cover fire resistance testing for passive fire protection measures, and reaction to fire testing, which evaluates ignition, flame spread, heat release, smoke generation and toxicity for materials, products and systems. Our third-party inspection services confirm correct installation of the passive and active fire protection while ensuring the necessary compliance and reassurance. Our Certifire and EWCL5 product and system certification schemes, which include factory production control auditing and sampling, provide assurance that the products and materials, when installed correctly, will perform the same as the original tested product. Our consultancy offering ensures that a building or infrastructure project complies with current fire safety guidance in a cost-effective way. We use our knowledge and experience of fire safety engineering, along with the latest codes, research and modelling tools, to advise the design team and create a robust fire strategy that can be applied throughout the life of the building. This fire strategy is implemented to protect the building, and therefore protect lives, which is at the center of everything we do.
Gulf Fire: What key developments have you seen recently in the fire industry in the Middle East? What value do these bring?
There has been a noticeable shift towards clearer guidelines, which are accompanying more stringent regulations. We’re also seeing more consistency in terms of regulations and how these are implemented. In my opinion, this brings a lot of value. I feel that the more stringent regulations we’re seeing in the region are in line with the advancements in development. As buildings become bigger, taller, and more complex in their design, it is imperative that safety regulations adapt to suit this progress.
The improved clarity in the guidance is also crucial because many contractors are unknowingly abiding by outdated regulations. In the past, it was sometimes unclear what was mandatory and what was recommended – and as a result, we have witnessed a lot of unnecessary expenditure to correct these mistakes when products or designs were later found to be unsuitable.
We’re also seeing more inspections and enforcement of these regulations, which is very welcome. Safety is always number one. It is testament to the evolution of the region and its new place in the world that these precautions are being taken seriously. I expect to see this trend continue and remain in line with other countries in the developed world.
Gulf Fire: What differences do you notice about the industry in the Gulf region compared with other parts of the world?
All of the countries in the region share a goal to be world-class across many aspects of life, and the built environment plays a big role in that. They want world-class amenities housed in world-class buildings. This expansion and development has been rapid and I think construction practices and fire and safety regulations are catching up with this growth, but it is happening. As I mentioned, we’ve seen a lot of progress in this area and expect to see this continued as there is still room for improvement.
Gulf Fire: What are Element’s plans for the future?
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a lot of growth and development, so we’re currently looking into expanding there, with two new Warringtonfire Consulting offices. Some really exciting projects are happening and we’re looking forward to increasing our presence there and getting involved. We are also looking at a new Warringtonfire Consulting office in Oman and a design office in India to support our planned growth throughout the greater region.
As well as this, we’re looking at expanding our consultancy and inspection services across the Middle East and India, which aligns with the increased regulations I’ve discussed. In terms of testing, we’re always looking at new capabilities and ensuring we offer the most technical and innovative service to our customers. Façade testing in particular is an area where we’re making further investments.
Most importantly, our goal is for Warringtonfire to continue to be seen as a trusted brand in the region. Following the acquisition of the business by Element, our trading name and visual identity were updated at the end of 2018. As a result, today we are once again simply known as Warringtonfire, a highly respected and trusted name that has played a leading role in the fire protection industry for over 50 years. We want to ensure that its reputation carries over to the Al Futtaim Element Materials Technology name as well.
We would like to continue building strong relationships with customers, and continue to educate them on changes in the industry and how we can be a part of their team. We hope that with time, people will understand and appreciate the investment they’re making now is one that could save them not only time, money, and inconvenience down the line, but could also save lives. That’s really the crux of everything we do – protecting buildings, protecting businesses, protecting the environment and protecting life.
For more information, go to www.warringtonfire.com