Business Catalyst

In conversation with Abhishek Chhabra, Business Catalyst at Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants

You have been driving the expansion of the fire compliance activities into new markets, what would you say have been some of the challenges?

India has a couple of challenges which are being overcome slowly. Being a very diverse country, the value of life and its linkages with the measures undertaken for fire safety vary a lot.

As the rate of urbanization has been increasing, the regulatory bodies and industry are realizing the lack of understanding of “Life cycle of fire safety” and its impacts. The government in United Kingdom recently published the lack of the “Golden Thread” when they investigated the Grenfell Fire Tragedy. This meant that while there existed a rough understanding of the “Life cycle of fire safety”; the entities involved in implementing these stages were not owning up to the responsibilities in these stages. The “Life cycle of fire safety” starts when any building is conceived and the use of “Passive fire protection” measures like “compartmentation” needs to be correctly designed. In India, people are slowly starting to realize that it is that it is less expensive to bring about fire safety using “passive fire protection measures”. If the construction is able to suffocate the fire within a compartment, then the load on fire departments response times, the activation of active fire measures is much less. As the understanding of “Life cycle of fire safety” and its impacts increases; so will the clarity on the ask increase. Better specifications, regulations and implementation will lead to less loss of life and damage of property

Which industries have been most receptive towards accepting compliance standards. What are some of factors which have influenced this acceptance?

Commercial infrastructure like malls, hospitals, office buildings etc. as luckier than other infrastructure as they can afford more eyes and ears on the project.

They often have insurers and other commercial stake to make sure better specifications, regulations and implementation is in place. The other types of buildings lack the knowledge of people who can ask or check fire safety. As an example residential infrastructure often is built to the minimum requirements which are rarely updated about the new risks and are prone to ignorance.

How is the Indian market positioned as far as compliance is concerned, do you see a shift in the stance in recent years?

Indians are among most sought after people to solve complex problems. The country is poised to grow exponentially to fill in the urbanization gap. Seeing more and more people of our country die to fire accidents has been triggering better awareness and this is bound to increase in the coming years.

As far as technology is concerned, would you say the Indian passive fire protection market and Industry is on par with global standards?

India is starting to use passive fire protection and yet to reach a stage where it can be compared with best practices. With more and more international players coming in, there is a hope that the local regulatory bodies develop an unbiased approach to checking for compliance of performance of products.

What are some of the factors one must consider while designing and implementing a building envelope to meet all fire safety standards?

The key elements that will ensure a fire safe building envelope are summarized in the image.

  • Materials: The reaction to fire properties will always add up to a system property. Ignitability, combustibility, Calorific Value and Flame & Smoke spread need to be assessed.
  • Assurance of supply: For such risky materials which are needed; assurance should be undertaken using certification & listing which offers traceability at the construction site
  • The risks of the design of the building envelope needs to be assessed by a specialist who will need to conduct or will use large scale fire propagation evidences to assess the fire risks and then when the designs are firmed up an eligible and liable inspection body needs to ensure what is assessed is what is getting installed!

How can we ensure fire safety with the participation of many different stakeholders (who all have different commercial motivations)?

I feel an event like FSBI is an excellent starting point for bringing all the stakeholders together. An annual gathering like this will lead to industry associations and will help spark better understanding of the subject of implementation of fire safety

What importance do forums like FIRE SAFE BUILD INDIA assume for the passive fire protection Industry, what are you most looking forward to at FSBI 2024?

I am looking forward to the conference sessions which will bring together those stakeholders together who influence each other’ safety but never get to talk at a common platform. I am also looking forward to a very large number of side meetings and interactions that will spur change in future actions