The UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice

The applicable building code in the UAE is the “UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice” which is developed by the UAE General Headquarters of Civil Defence. This code was originally released in 2011 and was primarily based on NFPA codes and standards as well as local practices. It did not contain any specific requirements on façades, however, where the code was silent on any fire safety aspect reference was normally made to relevant NFPA codes and standards.

Between 2012 to 2014, additional Annexures was released which contained guidance and additional requirements for façade systems. The code was updated in 2017 and more recently in 2018 to include specific requirements for each type of façade systems..

The current 2018 edition of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice has specific requirements for façade fire assessment and inspections. Ideally, the façade design must be reviewed by a competent fire consultant before any installation of façade at the site.

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Summary of façade fire assessment and inspection process in the UAE

Qualification and licencing

The technical qualification and registration are essential to verify the competency and to ensure the individual or organisation is competent, qualified, licenced and can be accountable for the design and installation of the façade assembly.

As per the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice the minimum requirements are as follows:

  • a. The cladding supplier must be registered and licenced with Civil Defence.
  • b. The cladding system must be tested and certified by an accredited testing and certification body.
  • c. The cladding system must be registered and licenced with Civil Defence.
  • d. Fire consultant reviewing the façade design and inspecting the façade installations must be registered and licenced with Civil Defence (i.e. House of Expertise).
  • e. Façade installer must be registered and licenced with Civil Defence.
  • f. Façade installer must be trained and certified by the cladding system supplier.

Façade design review

A façade fire assessment report is required to be submitted by the House of Expertise to Civil Defence ideally before any installation of façade onsite. This report outlines the façade assembly proposed for the development and incorporate the system schematics. Some of the key components of this report include:

  • a. Description of the building including occupancy type, height, stakeholder details, etc.
  • b. Building elevation highlighting the different types of façade systems and the extent of each on the building façade.
  • c. Workshop drawings and schematics of the different façade systems indicating the various components that form part of the system.
  • d. Civil Defence registration certificates and Certificate of Conformity (COC) for all applicable façade elements.
  • e. Reaction to fire test: each component of the façade to be fire tested (exposed without the skin).
  • f. Full-scale assembly test: the complete façade assembly system to be fire tested.
  • g. Spandrel separation: vertical (minimum 915 mm) or horizontal (minimum 760 mm) 1 hour fire resistance rated spandrel separation is required for buildings more than 15 m in height, even in fire sprinkler protected building.
  • h. Perimeter fire barrier: certified and listed system to be provided at the slab edge.
  • i. Cavity fire barrier: to be provided at each floor level within the void space between the cladding and primary substrate and around façade openings (e.g. windows).

The UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice has specific small- and full-scale fire testing requirements for various type of cladding systems. It provides options for testing to American, British and European standards with minimum acceptance criteria depending on occupancy and building height classifications. Any deviations from the tested, certified and listed system requires an Engineering Judgement (EJ) by an accredited testing and certification body.

Undertaking letters from all the relevant stakeholders are required to be provided to confirm the system performance, design and installation will be as per the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice.

Façade field verification

Once the façade fire assessment report is approved by Civil Defence and installation of façade commences at the site; field inspections must be undertaken at every 20% interval as a minimum to verify the façade installation. This applies to the façade assembly including the cavity fire barriers where provided.

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Minimum frequency of façade fire inspections by House of Expertise accredited to ISO 17020

The perimeter fire barriers are required to be inspected as per ASTM E2393 Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Fire Resistive Joint Systems and Perimeter Fire Barriers (i.e. 1 destructive test for every 152 linear meters)..

The inspection is to verify the as-built condition against the approved façade fire assessment report. If there are any deviations this must be highlighted and may need rectification works or resubmission of the façade fire assessment report to the local Civil Defence.

The House of Expertise undertaking the field inspections shall be accredited to ISO 17020 Conformity assessment — Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection as an independent third-party special inspection agency.