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RISK IN CONTEXT

Building a Tall Tower - Could Your Asset Go Up in Smoke?

Posted by Rahul Sharma 03 April 2017

Buildings in urban areas across the globe are reaching new heights, but while these towers are providing much-needed new office, residential, or leisure space, constructing such projects comes with increased risk, particularly regarding the possibility of a fire breaking out during the building phase.

We’ve recently noted that the trend towards tall building construction is on the rise in many parts of the world, such as the UK and the Middle East. Tall towers, defined as those with more than 20 floors, are being constructed to greater heights and in greater numbers than before.

At Marsh’s recent Infrastructure Risk Management Forum in Dubai, fire risk emerged as a key concern for those involved in constructing tall towers. Fire is a concern in the construction phase of any project, but is particularly worrying in tall tower construction, for the following reasons:

  • There is a large concentration of assets at risk in a single project, and a fire could result in severe damage to the works and significant delay to completion, if not a total loss of the asset.
  • Sprinkler systems and other fire prevention measures may not yet be in place.
  • A fire could occur at levels that are out of reach from conventional firefighting equipment.

Therefore, taking steps to prevent a fire from taking place will be of the utmost importance in these projects.

Recent skyscraper fires linked to building materials

In the construction phase, the materials used to construct the building, the storage of large amounts of materials such as furniture, and flammable materials used in the formwork can all raise the risk of a fire occurring.

For example, Dubai has seen several tall tower fires, thought to be linked to the materials being used in the construction of projects in the region.  This has included Dubai’s Sulafa Tower in July 2016 and a tower in Ajman, UAE in March.

When planning a project such as these, you should pay close attention to building regulation in the area where your project is being constructed, particularly as new building codes are being brought in to many parts of the world in an effort to prevent fires in tall towers, and identify and pay close attention to the stages of the project where the risk of fire is greatest.  In addition, robust risk management methods and employing contractors with sound track records can ensure that these are controlled and mitigated.  

Rahul Sharma