DesignMENA speaks to Phil McCowen, general manager, Tyco Fire Protection Products Middle East
What are the common mistakes in the region when it comes to fire protection?
The most common mistakes we encounter are poor design and installation of systems as well as the use of equipment that carries no international approvals. We have come across several examples that would fail to adequately protect a building and its occupants in an emergency situation – sprinklers not connected to the pipe work, smoke detectors which have been installed with their plastic cover still in place, gas suppression systems which have not been connected to the agent cylinders. Many of these systems have passed inspections, so there is a need for more rigorous adherence to recognised international standards and regulations.
Are there certain building materials or designs that should be avoided?
Flammable building materials is a topic high on the agenda in the Middle East at the moment due to a number of fires at high-rise developments which have spread throughout the building due to flammable materials used in their construction. Put simply, there should be a ban on the use of these materials due to the significant fire risk they pose.
Can fire protection be retrofitted effectively?
Generally, yes. This largely depends on the application and products in question. Fire detection systems can be easily retrofitted, as can gaseous suppression. Solutions that are installed as part of a building’s infrastructure, such as piping, can be more challenging, but not impossible. For example, we have many project references where we have successfully retrofitted sprinkler systems in older buildings such as hotels and museums.
Have recent events in Dubai and Qatar led to more demand for your products?
Recent events have intensified the need for certain territories in the Middle East to enforce recognised fire regulations and standards in new and old buildings, supported by a robust programme of inspections and fire safety training of the emergency services. It is terrible that it sometimes takes such horrific events as the Doha fire to bring focus on the need for basic fires safety regulations and enforcement which are standard in other parts of the world. The priority should always be to save lives and protect property, and that is was rigorous standards and industry practices enforce.
What is needed to make sure that existing and future buildings are better protected against fire?
Ensuring fire protection is a key consideration in the design of a building at the earliest stages. Fire protection technology can help to mitigate challenging applications and deliver innovative solutions to meet ambitious and complex building designs.
A key consideration for many developers and end users is the environmental impact of new and refurbished buildings. Reducing carbon emissions is now a significant concern for many projects across the Middle East region and our wide range of solutions are geared to minimising environmental harm and contributing to more sustainable developments.