Fluctuations in oil prices and a more conservative approach to infrastructure investment have seen a recent slowing of the construction industry in the Middle East. Yet there are several factors pointing to longer term growth and a potential ‘rebound’, including population growth and a strong tourism drive, not to mention localised drivers like hosting of Expo 2020 and Vision 20301.
With the continued development of many new buildings across the key segments of residential, retail, office and hospitality, safety of inhabitants and building fire protection is a clear priority. For some, the priority is installing a high specification fire suppression system to match the ‘high spec’ of the building – and for many it’s sustainability that will play a key part in system selection. Sustainable fire suppression agents and advanced fire detection technologies are playing a vital role in shaping the market. Developers, contractors and various industrial stakeholders are looking for innovative solutions to safeguard their assets in the event of fires, whilst adhering to the UAE’s Vision 2021 of attaining a sustainable environment and infrastructure.
The fire suppression sector offers countries in the Gulf region and across the world with an immediate opportunity to make substantial progress towards their commitments. Sustainable clean agents are available, such as Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid from 3M – an electrically non-conductive fluid that leaves no residue when it evaporates, avoiding damage of sensitive electronics or other valued assets. In fact clean agents are established and already used in commercial facilities, cargo vessels, government buildings and more across the Gulf region.
Investing in clean fire suppression systems not only helps protect the environment, but also safeguards electronics and machinery that need to perform at optimal levels before, during and even after fires. As a result, the damage sustained by fires is mitigated and downtime significantly reduced.
Government initiatives across the Gulf region are moving to design a more sustainable future. This is reflected in global regulations that have accelerated targeting and phase-down of unsustainable chemicals used in fire suppression. In October 2016, delegates from 197 countries reached a landmark deal to phase-down use of the fastest growing greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), commonly used in fire suppression equipment. Given that fire suppression systems have a typical life-span of 25 years, this has immediate impact on the purchase of new, and use of existing systems.
The new agreement – which was reached at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, a United Nations event held in Rwanda – builds on the foundations laid in Europe under the F-Gas Regulations, first adopted in 2006 and has a three-stage approach, phasing down highly developed countries before developing countries.
At the event, the 197 nations agreed to drastically reduce their use of HFCs, which are potent greenhouse gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators as well as fire protection systems.
HFCs were developed in the 1990s to replace halons and other ozone-depleting substances. Although HFCs are not ozone depleting, they have high global warming potentials (GWPs). The continued growth of HFCs would make them a major contributor to climate change, so nations decided to phase-down their production under the same treaty that dealt with halons, the 1989 Montreal Protocol.
As discussed, alternatives to HFC-based fire suppression systems are already well-established and many users in the Gulf region have already made the transition to them. Kuwait University is one of the oldest educational institutions in Kuwait, yet has dynamic plans for development, and keeping its students at the cutting-edge of scientific advances. To replace the existing halon fire suppression systems protecting its critical assets, Kuwait University decided to upgrade to a new, effective, and more sustainable technology, while being ‘future proof’ against current and future regulations.
After carefully evaluating the available agents in the market, Novec 1230 fire protection fluid was selected as the agent of choice. Novec 1230 fluid met all the criteria set by the client, including limited footprint requirements, fast discharge within 10 seconds and fire extinguishing within 30 seconds after discharge. A spokesperson at Kuwait University commented:
“Kuwait University’s vision is to be a national pioneering university with outstanding qualifications in higher education and scientific research. We’re confident that through this upgrade we now have a fire suppression system which is similarly ‘state of the art’ and will provide long term protection of our students and campus.”
Saudi Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) is a government authority organised under the Ministry of Culture and Information, responsible for all media in Saudi Arabia. SBC operates almost all broadcasting outlets in the Kingdom, including approximately 82 TV stations and more than 18 radio stations. SBC has also undergone a similar process to Kuwait University in upgrading its original halon fire suppression systems with a more sustainable solution.
After evaluating various options including FM-200, CO2 and chemical powders, SBC selected Novec 1230 fluid as the standard fire protection agent in all new SBC buildings.
Ahmad Abdulftah Bugis, Director of Power and HVAC projects in the Engineering Affairs department at SBC, comments: “Sustainability was the main deciding factor when it came to upgrading our fire protection systems. We were keen to work with safe agents like Novec… it’s really important to participate in environmental issues.”
For most organisations, the sustainable ‘duty of care’ is twofold – in addition to protecting the environment and leaving an environmental legacy, there is another more immediate duty in protecting their most precious assets – people. Some extinguishing agents including inert gas and CO2 systems work by displacing oxygen and breathable air. The inherent danger of CO2 means it is not usually installed in occupied enclosures. Novec 1230 fluid from 3M has the highest margin of safety of all clean agents for occupied spaces requiring regular access. This makes it ideal for highly occupied spaces including skyscrapers, hospitals, hotels and universities.
For any organisation embarking on a new fire suppression system or a significant retrofit, safety and sustainability will be key. Fortunately clean agents like Novec 1230 fluid are not affected by new or existing environmental regulations, and are safe for occupied spaces. Good news for the environment, and reassurance for stakeholders that investing in a safe, sustainable fire suppression system can both protect their assets and stand the test of time.
For more information, go to www.3m.com/novec1230
1. www2.deloitte.com – ‘Construction 2017: A positive market outlook?’.
3M and Novec are trademarks of 3M Company.
FM200 is a trademark of DuPont.