The 2018 Edition of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice introduced a new chapter outlining a new set of requirements: Chapter 18 – Stakeholder Responsibilities. The concept of including the chapter is innovative, as the information presented is not required by the code. However, the industry has welcomed the set of requirements, as it aims to clarify the levels of responsibilities by all parties.
The stakeholder responsibilities are critical in the lifecycle of provisions of fire systems – design, selection, procurement, implementation and handover. They are even more critical in systems such as smoke control, which at many times are a fundamental aspect of the fire strategy and safety of a building.
Since its first edition, in 2011, the UAE Fire Code has mandated that all fire performance-related products should be tested and listed in accordance with the applicable standard, and approved/certified by the Civil Defence of the relevant Emirate. The 2018 Edition of the Code further enforces this requirement by specifically identifying the product testing and certification requirements that are to be completed by the manufacturer. The question is then raised: ‘Is certification of a product enough, or is there anything additional that needs to be done?’ As an example, when using smoke control systems fire-rated ductwork, any concerns can be addressed by reviewing the requirements of Chapter 18 and the relevant responsibilities.
The consultant working on the fire and life safety design is responsible for designing a system and for providing specifications that are fit for purpose, in accordance with the requirements of the code, and for obtaining the authority approvals for such a design. In addition, the consultant must be involved in the installation and handover process.
As for the contractor, two key responsibilities include selecting materials, systems and products that have the required Civil Defence testing and approvals and executing the installation in accordance with the approved design. Any “changes, discrepancies, deviations or non-compliances that arise during construction and installation” must be brought to the attention of the stakeholders, including the consultant, for resolution.
Therefore, the relevant stakeholder responsibilities intend for such ductwork to be designed per code, registration and certification per Civil Defence requirements, and the installation to be completed per the design; any deviations – for any reason – must be discussed and re-approved.
The selection of fit-for-purpose ductwork is the initial step in the contractor installation responsibility process. However, considering that the products have undergone testing under very specific conditions and are fit for a specific purpose, it is not sufficient for the material to only undergo the required certification, but also for the contractor to understand and ensure the limitations and applicability to the specific application. The material must meet the performance requirements of the design and must be validated as per code standards. Equally important, the ductwork integration to other design elements, such as dampers, fans and anchoring/support systems need to be aligned with the code requirements.
Upon selection of the ductwork, there are various aspects of installation to consider, based on experience of major projects to date. The first is adequate access in the construction sequence. The support for ductwork must be in accordance with manufacturer specifications, and any deviation will result in discussions with the manufacturer and consultant to address code-compliant solution. Further, planning for easy access is critical in ensuring the installation joints are adequately sealed, and mitigate leakage to meet the approved design. This planning is an important element, as it is cost-effective to eliminate leak potentials during the start of a project rather than to try to identify leaks during the commissioning phase, where the installation of other services will get in the way.
It is important to note that sometimes, irrespective of the efforts in planning and coordination undertaken, clashes between services may be experienced on site. At this point, a diversion of ductwork from the original design is inevitable. This can result in the addition of ductwork length, number of bends, access, interaction with other services, and impact on the entire smoke control system infrastructure. Simply adjusting ductwork to fit without coordination among stakeholders will result in further challenges as the installation and commissioning progress. Therefore, it is of extreme importance that any diversions are coordinated between the contractor and consultant to validate the impact on performance (duct sizing and fan sizing). Upon confirming through technical methods (calculations) that the change is feasible, coordination with the relevant manufacturers is required to ensure that the changes – that is, the number of bends, connections to the exhaust fan, relevance to other services – can be accommodated by their installation requirements.
Considering the complexity of current projects, it is anticipated that most will require collaboration involving the contractor, consultant and, on many occasions, the supplier or manufacturer, should there be any changes in design during construction and installation. Even if changes are as minor as ductwork routing or are as significant as ductwork fire-rated performance re-evaluations, it’s imperative that all installations follow a process which mitigates risk and is in accordance with the manufacturer specifications and requirements; otherwise, warranties and applicable fire certification may become invalid. Further, such changes can have an impact on the level of safety provided by the products, if they are not within the limits of the approved testing. Any changes during the installation must then be re-submitted as design drawings for Civil Defence approval.
The 2018 Edition of the UAE Fire Code ensures that all stakeholders adhere to their responsibilities, as the authorities enforce the process by cross-referencing approved engineering drawings at the time of handover. Any discrepancies in the built condition, including ductwork routing, are subject to inspection. It is, therefore, extremely important that all stakeholders carefully review their responsibilities in order to implement them into their ways of working.
Finally, the responsibilities are a set of guidelines created with the intent to achieve a high level of fire safety in buildings during the design, construction, handover and operation processes. Each stakeholder can choose to personally and individually execute their responsibilities or retain the services of a representative with the required expertise to do it on their behalf.
Alexander Castellanos is head of Fire & Life Safety at WSP Middle East. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.