It’s is well know that fire safety is one of the top priorities for buildings in the UAE, which is why Dubai Civil Defence (DCD) updated the fire code last year, plugging the gaps in the old one. It is important to assess the risks and specific hazards present within your environment and then install appropriate fire safety measures.
There is particular interest when it comes to firestop -- a fire protection system made of various components used to seal openings and joints in a fire-resistance rated wall or floor assemblies. According to Karim Elshafie, general manager at MVL Firestop, since 2016, all stakeholders’ awareness regarding firestop had increased. He says: “Clients, consultants, main contractors, MEP contractors and DCD inspectors put more focus on firestop scope in projects. They realised the huge risk involved when the firestop scope is neglected. The main source of fire spreading (inside the building) is because of MEP components.”
In UAE’s fire and life safety code not a single detail on firestop was missed, says Elshafie. The code includes a mix and match of the highest standards, like UL, ASTM, NFPA and FM. Elshafie says: “Now all projects must have a firestop. When DCD inspectors inspect a building, they insist on building operators to apply firestops. Dubai is on the way of having all buildings firestopped.”
He goes on to explain firestop in detail. He says: “Firestop in general is related to three sections in any building: fire resistive joints (i.e., head-to-wall, floor-to-floor, wall-to-wall joints; rating should be in accordance with UL2079), through penetrations (i.e., all MEP penetration in fire rated assembly; rating should be in accordance with UL1479) and cladding (i.e., perimeter joints rating should be in accordance with ASTM E2307).
“When we speak about through penetration, it is directly related to MEP. The term is used to denote an opening for penetrations that pass through both sides of a vertical or horizontal fire resistance-rated assembly or through a fire-rated wall or floor which in turn passes a mechanical, electrical, piping, structural, communication or other device. We are talking about the gaps in firefighting, drainage, chilled water, LPG pipes, AC ducts, cable trays, conduits, busways, busbars, etc. MEP stakeholders must know the appropriate system for the type of penetration passing, which means approved and certified system(s). This system must be tested according to UL1479 and listed with DCD.”
Karim Elshafie, general manager, MVL Firestop
Elshafie says that in order to select the correct system, MEP stakeholders need to check the following: Type of assembly required for firestopping (floor or wall); substrate of the assembly (concrete and gypsum are commonly used in the GCC); thickness of the assembly; penetration item; penetration description (annular space, thickness, backing material); hours rating specified; and if there is a special requirement, for example, movement.
Elshafie claims that MVL firestop provides the guidance to all stakeholders in selecting the most economical and correct system. “According to the 2017 fire and safety code, the penetration standards are UL1479, ASTM E814 and FM4990, and all MVL firestop systems adhere to not one but all three standards.
“MVL experts provide Engineering Judgments (known as EJ). EJs are limitedly used if all firestop suppliers don’t have an appropriate tested/approved/listed system. EJ must be written by an expert and qualified fire protection engineer from the manufacturing factory with a supporting test data. Our customers can put their trust in MVL’s EJs as they are always supported with an in-house test report, which is provided in each EJ in accordance with UL1479.”
The other challenge, Elshafie says is that the whole scope through penetration must be from a single source. “From the preconstruction phase, people must be very careful in selecting a firestop supplier. If a firestop fails in any of the penetrates, the entire building should be handled by another supplier as the responsibility of the building goes under a single manufacturer.
“The conflict occurring onsite is between the main contractor creating big openings without sealing them and the MEP contractor having to firestop them.”
Talking a bit about the fire approval process, Elshafie says: “Fire is a risk that is taken seriously by authorities in the UAE. The process of getting approved as a firestop company is a little different in Dubai than in other parts of the world. Elsewhere, the onus of the approvals process is on the manufacturers, who have to conduct all the necessary testing. Once certified, contractors are free to use their materials.
“However, in the UAE, DCD play a pivotal role in ensuring that fire-safety protocols are both met and exceeded. They don’t take the word of the manufacturer. It is the responsibility of suppliers to ensure that the products and systems they offer have been certified by appropriate laboratories. A COC ‘certificate of compliance’ with DCD logo and format must be filled, singed and stamped by the manufacturer and then sent to the approved testing laboratory for confirming the information included. It is then sent back to DCD.”
The approvals process involves two branches, which are products and systems. All individual products, such as sealant, collars, strips, and mortar, must be tested. Systems also have to be approved by DCD.
He adds: “This robust approval process not only serves to increase safety, but also acts as a test to determine which companies have the wherewithal to make it as a fire-stop supplier in the Dubai market. The process of getting all of your products approved by DCD is long and arduous and, because of that, it helps to filter out the firms that don’t have the gumption to see it through to its conclusion. We have seen many companies – both local and international – begin this journey only to fall by the wayside.”
MVL firestop growth at the end of 2017 was 500% higher compared to 2016. Elshafie says: “We are very optimistic about 2018, which started showing in Q1. I am expecting another growth of 250% in 2018.
“This growth is because of our repeat clients in the market. We have an economical system here. By economical I mean, suppose we take 4” PVC pipes. Normally, it requires three layers of intumescent strips with intumescent sealant in addition to mineral wool as backing material. In our systems, we use only two layers of INFS0812 (6cm width) with 3.2mm of INSS1440. When you face an 8” PVC pipe, competitors offer their intumescent strips with more number of layers but we have INFS0812 (8cm) that is used with three layers of strips.”
MVL Firestop offers a range of firestopping systems
He concludes: “MVL offers a full range of firestop products and fire prevention coatings; we are also considered as a free-of-cost private passive fire advisors. We are following DCD in not increasing the cost on developers due to safety. Not only that, if we bare this inexpensive cost compared to saving lives in case of any fire occurring in a project, I believe we are on the winning side of the deal.”