Gulf Fire recently took the opportunity to speak with Andy Dean following his presentation to the SDiB Conference in Muscat on 5th September.
Andy is Head of Facades at WSP Middle East.
Gulf Fire: What issues are you experiencing currently on existing buildings?
Andy: At the moment there are facades out there that owners want to change where the facades are relatively new. Several organisations, including ours, are helping with that process or are involved in assessing facades remediation. ACP is probably our most common issue. In undertaking some of our reviews we’re finding that some of the installed materials have already cracked and aged; even on those that are within ten years old. So, the low-density polyethylene core within this non-fire-rated material, has already deteriorated to the point of being unserviceable.
Similarly, we’ve seen materials such as adhesives fail. If this is supporting insulation then that can slump into the back of a cavity, providing not only a larger cavity than there should be, but also, therefore, no insulation.
Another potential problem is the corrosion of fixings. One of the things that I’ve learned from experience is to specify the corrosion environment in which the building is to be built; combined with the design life of the building. Many facade components will deteriorate long before that the overall design life, and that’s not inappropriate. For example wheels on sliding doors may need to be changed earlier. The corrosion category in the Middle East is high. We’re specifying C5M, for buildings along the coast. And if you read the actual standards where they define what those corrosion categories are, it’s hard to argue that that’s not the case.
Gulf Fire: What do you focus on in terms of safety of façade materials and are there any tips?
Andy: As a technical person my focus is on performance. Fire is a safety-related performance issue and for the glass, the barrier performance is a safety-related element. In undertaking refurbishments, if you want to upgrade the panels, don’t miss the opportunity to have a look at other aspects such as the thermal capacity of the building and the status of components such as your gaskets because a lot of these things are easy to replace at the same time.
Gulf Fire: Why do balconies present a challenge to fire safety?
Andy: It’s not easy to control people. We are unpredictable and don’t always do as we are told. People are known to have thrown cigarettes off balconies and have barbeques and use heaters. People store items on balconies, naturally use furniture, and leave washing on them; the result of which is usually a fire load.
Another issue is cavities in the façade. We can’t realistically take out the insulation in those areas because they are needed for thermal performance. Those materials, if correctly selected, are very appropriate and useful for the various performance characteristics, even though they may not be related to fire as such.
Gulf Fire: How do you suggest improvements for introducing legislation to raise standards?
Andy: When creating legislation I would urge drafting authorities to take a practical approach and speak to the industry about what is internationally tried and tested, and what would work here in the Middle East. Usually, the people who know most about the construction industry are the suppliers and installers. They’re the ones who are on the cutting edge – developing and driving different new technologies. Architects and consultants try to keep up with them. And then legislation usually tries to keep up with the latest developments in the market. Unfortunately, authorities and hence legislation are often the last to know and adapt to new developments. So, I would say, please speak to industry and then, be careful about what the legislation actually says and you’ll get excellent advice.
For more information, go to www.safetydesigninbuildings.com