A skyscraper under construction in Dubai caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, leading to evacuations of not only the structure but also the Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi hotel nearby. This is reportedly the fifth blaze the United Arab Emirates has seen in 18 months. If you recall, on New Year's Eve, the Address Hotel, a 63-storey five-star hotel, caught fire due to what engineers said was an "electrical short circuit". The blazes will no doubt be a topic of conversation between the civil defense engineers from the Civil Defence Fire Code Council, and the fire safety professionals who banded together to write the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice.
According to Business Insider, experts say that "exterior cladding used for decoration or insulation" could have could be causing small fires to spread considerably in buildings in the UAE. The Director of Dubai Civil Defence Maj Gen Rashid Al Matroushi had rubbished these claims back in April. He said: "We are addressing bad construction practices, but civil defense officers cannot monitor every step of the process...There are some who may be cheating when it comes to the materials used in buildings."
The rumor is that flammable cladding materials made from plastic fillings are positioned in between aluminum panels and bad construction practices could be responsible for the spreading fires.
For safety sake, in June 2015, the Dubai Civil Defence connected 40,000 buildings to a system named the Dubai Life Safety Dashboard. The system checks if fire sprinkler systems are in working order and ensures that fire safety is where it needs to be. All of this checking up involves fire protection engineering.
Jane Lataille, a fire protection engineer who published her book Fire Protection Engineering in Building Design, says that fire protection engineers, from a structural standpoint, are in charge of the "strength, thickness and fire resistance rating of building construction materials."
Therefore, the fire protection engineers need to be questioned about the fires that are breaking out in business areas where new high-rise buildings are being constructed in Dubai.
Fire protection engineers concern themselves with the following elements when contributing to the construction of a building:
- Locations of buildings
- Exposures to buildings
- Sizes of buildings
- Size of fire areas
- Building layout
- Combustibility of building finishing materials
- Security issues
- Jane Lataille, Fire Protection Engineering in Building Design
The combustibility of building finishing materials is something that has been focused on since New Year's Eve in Dubai. A crackdown on combustible materials must occur if there is still contravention of the rules as stipulated by the Civil Defence.
The National Fire Protection Association in the United States, as a result of bad construction practices, has published multiple codes and standards guidelines. For the finishing materials - like the cladding that has been criticized in the UAE - there are codes and standards that inform the fire protection engineers what needs to be checked. According to Lataille, the engineers should do tests for "radiant flux of floor covering systems", tests for any burning characteristics of the actual building materials, the heat release statistics of any materials used in the construction process, the evaluation of the textile wall coverings and ceiling coverings.
After that, fire protection engineers have to worry about interior building layout which involves portable fire extinguishers, hoses, and indoor sprinkler systems. To see how crucial engineers are to the fire protection industry, check out this video from the Department of Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland: