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October 20, 2014

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Three essential reasons to upgrade your access control technology

Dubai Fire Testing Lab: A Case Study

Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants (TBWIC) is a privately held engineering firm providing independent quality assurance and testing services from its laboratory based in Dubai.

Started in 1995 by Tom Bell-Wright, the business provides specialist third-party consulting to architects and developers for their curtain-wall projects. The business has grown to be the major company of its type in the region providing both consulting and full-scale testing for curtain walls, and most recently the only facility capable of testing fire-rated doors, walls and partitions as well as flame-resistant materials.

The large testing laboratory in Dubai holds accreditations by UKAS and ENAS to ISO 17025 (Testing), by UKAS to ISO 17065 (Product Certification) and by IAS to ISO 17020(inspections) and as a Special Inspections Agency as per AC291.

They have recently completed adding an Intermediate Scale, Multistory Test Apparatus (ISMA) to test façade claddings or complete external wall systems to vertical and lateral flame propagation as per NFPA 285.

Accreditation is the certification of competency, authority or credibility. Organisations that issue credentials or certify third parties against official standards are themselves formally accredited by accreditation bodies (such as UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service); The International Accreditation Service (IAS) in the US; and ENAS (Emirates National Accreditation System).

Fire safety code compliance

Fire professions, consultants, contractors and manufacturers must comply with codes and standards to ensure adherence to regional fire safety strategies. From the US International Building Code (of the IBC) to the UAE Life and Fire Safety Code of Practice, each region defines and sets its own guidelines for products and systems to comply with standards. These compliances ensure that in case of a fire, products and systems used in construction contain fire and prevent it from spreading further.

Below are the existing and new services being offered for fire testing by TBWIC.

Resistance to fire testing


Figure 1: Resistance to fire testing

These tests help determine the ability of an assembly to contain fire (compartmentalisation) for a certain time duration (See figure #1). Fire-rated doors, glass partitions, walls, etc used in buildings must be designed to prove a capability to “contain” a fire for the declared rating (usually 60, 90, 120 or 180 minutes).

This evidence is established using independent and accredited third-party testing laboratories. To give confidence and assurance to buyers and users, product manufacturers provide third-party certification that ensures continuity of performance of each item or system produced.


Figure 2: Certification label

Third-party certification bodies are accredited and hence empowered to review design and manufacturing processes before and after a ‘successful’ fire test to ensure continued product performance (certification). This certification is often regulated by the certification body issuing a limited number of ‘certification labels’ ( Figure#2), which have all requisite information about the certified product.

TBWIC is accredited by UKAS to test  Fire Doors & Shutters (EN 1634-1; BS 476 p 22; ISO 3008:2007; UL10B; UL10C; NFPA 252); Walls & Partitions (EN 1364-1;ISO 834-8; ASTM E119; NFPA 251; UL 263); Curtain Walling(EN 1364-3;EN 1364-4); Glazing (BS 476 :P22;ISO 3009; NFPA 257); Penetration Seals(ASTM E814;UL 1479) and Dampers (UL 555).

The company is also accredited by UKAS as a third-party certification body for Fire-rated doors and hardware and fire-rated separations and partitions.

Reaction to fire testing

A large number of materials used inside building for finishing; cladding; upholstery, etc. can cause fire to propagate faster than allowed. Reaction to fire tests determine material’s combustibility properties, contribution to fire growth, rate of spread of flame, smoke developed. TBWIC has the only such testing apparatus in the Gulf Region (See Figure # 3) called the Steiner Tunnel to conduct testing as per ASTM E84 (Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials). This test help classify material as per 1) Rate of flame spread (index) and 2) Flame developed (index)

Building facade fires

The latest construction methodologies and materials enable us to design and build higher buildings with innovative and attractive-looking building exteriors. But these new and innovative methods bring forth fire hazards in exterior wall assemblies which are difficult to handle even for fire authorities.


Figure 3: Steiner Tunnel for testing to ASTM E84

TBWIC has recently added a unique test facility called the Intermediate Scale Multistory Test Apparatus. A two-story structure this test rig (See Figure # 4) simulates fire breaking out on one floor and how it can spread to other floors/rooms in the same building via the building exterior/facade.

The NFPA 285 testing rig helps not only to establish evidence that materials used for the building facade (including fire and weather barriers, brackets, insulation, etc) can withstand and prevent the spread of fire but also checks the quality of system integration and construction for faults like cavities which act as chimneys to spread fire.


Figure 4: Intermediate Scale Multistory Test Apparatus

TBWIC is accredited by IAS to conduct testing as per NFPA 285.

Workmanship: quality and safety inspections

Apart from products and systems complying with the requisite standards and codes, a critical part of the construction is validating workmanship and confirmation that the construction and installation being done onsite is conducted as per the designs submitted and using the materials as proposed. These confirmations are critical to the supply chain of quality and, if ignored, can be dangerous, perhaps even leading to fatalities.

TBWIC is accredited by IAS for Special Inspections conducted under the International Building Code® (IBC) Chapter 17, Section 1704 and Section 1705 and inspections of fire stops, fire doors and fire-rated partitions.

The company looks forward to supporting the construction industry’s growth and helping to ensure that the protection of both life and property is not overlooked.

Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]


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December 24, 2017 12:16 pm


December 24, 2017 12:19 pm

we want to do fire test as per Bs476

mohamad sakr
mohamad sakr
October 17, 2018 7:45 pm

i am a lebanese carpenter ,i want to know if ican make atest for fire rated wooden door for 30 & 60 minutes