All of the countries in the Gulf Region share a goal to be world-class across many aspects of life, and the built environment plays a big role in that. They want world-class amenities housed in world-class buildings. This expansion and development has been rapid and for a time, construction practices and fire and safety regulations may have been left behind, though they are now catching up with this growth. But there is still more to do.
For example, we still find that many contractors misunderstand that properly certified products are enough to satisfy compliance with the building codes, without appreciating the need for the correct installation in accordance with the certification listing. Poor installation of passive fire materials, products and systems may deem the product or system’s fire performance entirely ineffective, which could contribute to considerable damage if a fire occurs.
The key to clearing up these ongoing misunderstandings is education. We do not install fire protection measures just to meet codes and regulations; we install them to save lives.
Acting as part of the team
Our goal is to work with our customers from the beginning of a project whenever possible to ensure an understanding of how and why we provide our guidance and recommendations. While we can apply our work to any phase of a building’s life cycle, when we engage with customers from the outset, we can consult at the design and construction stages and we can lend our expertise to optimize and add maximum value to the design.
Contractors often engage with us because they need to ensure their designs meet regulations; that everything on a building site is up to code, or that their fire doors have been installed correctly. However, we believe that customers receive the most efficient and cost-effective service and results when we are utilized as trusted advisors throughout the life cycle and can establish a longer working relationship with them. The more we become an extension of their team, the more effective we can be in our support.
Through our work, we hope that people will understand and appreciate the investment they’re making now is one that could save them not only time, money, and inconvenience down the line, but could also save lives.
There has been a noticeable shift towards clearer guidelines, which are accompanying more stringent regulations. We’re also seeing more consistency in terms of regulations and how these are implemented. In my opinion, this brings a lot of value. I feel that the more stringent regulations we’re seeing in the region are in line with the advancements in development. As buildings become bigger, taller, and more complex in their design, it is imperative that safety regulations adapt to suit this progress.
The improved clarity in the guidance is also crucial because many contractors are unknowingly abiding by outdated regulations. In the past, it was sometimes unclear what was mandatory and what was recommended – and as a result, we have witnessed a lot of unnecessary expenditure to correct these mistakes when products or designs were later found to be unsuitable.
We’re also seeing more inspections and enforcement of these regulations, which is very welcome. Safety is always number one. It is testament to the evolution of the region and its new place in the world that these precautions are being taken seriously. I expect to see this trend continue and remain in line with other countries in the developed world.
When acting as part of the team, we use our knowledge about the latest codes, research and modelling tools, to advise design teams and create a robust fire strategy that can be applied throughout the life of the building. This ensures customers understand and consider all new regulations for not just their current project, but for future projects too, and that they comply with current fire safety guidance in a cost-effective way.
Building projects in the Gulf Region are on an upward trajectory with no signs of slowing down. Saudi Arabia in particular is in the midst of a lot of growth and development, so we expect to see new regulations and an increased need for further education and guidance for customers there.
We’ve seen a lot of improvement in terms of understanding and accepting fire safety in recent years and I feel confident that attitudes will continue to develop. There is so much at risk in the event of a fire. Of course it can endanger lives, which is why it is essential, but fire can also lead to significant rebuilding costs; disruption of operations; the loss of irreplaceable assets; and if any fault is found, the reputational damage could be insurmountable.
We hope to continue building strong relationships with customers, educate them on changes in the industry and how we can be a part of their team, and ensure that a building is as safe as it can possibly be. We’re here to protect buildings, protect businesses, protect the environment and protect life.