Fit-Out & Construction Management

Tower Infernos: Preventing Skyscraper Fires

The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London and the fire that engulfed the Address Downtown Hotel in Dubai in 2015 were both tragic reminders of what can happen when buildings are not designed with fire prevention in mind.

While most fire safety codes include specifications for designing tall buildings, some have not been updated or exclude old structures from the regulations. In India, for example, commercial spaces meet safety building codes and most even surpass US and European standards – however this is not the case in all emerging markets.

Investigations from the 2015 fire in Dubai showed that the exterior panels used to insulate the Address Downtown Hotel were flammable. According to reports, most of the tall buildings in UAE have cladding made of aluminum sheets with thermoplastic cores. This type of cladding can cause fire to spread through windows and into building interiors.

Experts have called for stricter policies in London and Dubai following the recent fire disasters, and for architects and builders to work closely with city authorities on updating fire regulations to reflect the modern construction and design methods being used today.

While more macros fire prevention measures are usually put in place during the building design and construction stages – and are often dictated at a city or even country level – there are also proactive measures landlords and investors can take to keep buildings and their occupants safe from fire.

Preventing skyscraper fires

Landlords can

  1. Conduct due diligence to ensure fire safety policies at city and country level have been implemented during construction, especially with regard to the use of proper cladding materials.
  2. Uphold all local fire safety regulations.
  3. Install fire prevention fixtures such as automatic sprinklers, alarms and evacuation. While some of these measures are regulated in some countries, they are optional in others.
  4. Ensure operational procedures such as fire drill practice, clearing of fire hazards and evacuation routes and testing of fire safety systems and equipment are carried out and reviewed regularly.
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