Fire Dept, BMC set new guidelines for buildings with glass facades

Three months after a blaze in a glass facade building claimed four lives at Andheri, the fire department and BMC have come out with a fresh set of guidelines for such buildings.

These include openings on every floor of high-rises with shiny glass facades, smoke seals and barriers laid between walls and the facade, water curtain systems, etc.The blaze on June 6 in the eight-storey IBL House at Andheri, which houses IndusInd Bank, had trapped over 30 people.Four bank staffers died of suffocation by the time firemen could break open the glass facade to enter the building.According to the new guidelines recently approved by BMC, the Fire Brigade has made it mandatory for glass facade buildings to have openings on every floor."There must be an opening measuring 5 sq ft and at least 5ft in height facing the road," reads the policy.

These outlets are mandatory and must be provided every 50 feet. They should be openable both ways, so that those trapped can open them from inside, and rescue workers can open them from outside to climb in. The openings must have 'Emergency exit' labels, which will help save time as fire-fighters will not have to hunt for access points.

The new rules suggests that the distance between the building structure and the glass facade should not be more than 300 mm. Keeping in mind that smoke often leads to suffocation, the policy suggests that smoke seals or barriers be laid between the wall and the facade. Such barriers should be made of noncombustible material or vermiculate cement.

The guidelines further state that all glass facades that block escape areas like staircases, lifts and corridors should be synchronised with an opening mechanism, and the glass used to make the facades must be laminated and of high quality.

Apart from these, it will be mandatory to have water curtain systems on every floor, which will activate automatically and help restrict a fire.

The new policy also looks at ceilings, making it compulsory for developers to provide vents with mechanisms that are reachable from the floor. "The vent can be a pop-out type or bottom hinged and should be integrated with the automatic smoke detection system."

Furthermore, all glass walls should be able to resist fire for at least two hours. "No plastic or any combustible film should be coated on glass walls, the policy states.

Once the guidelines come into force, it will be mandatory for architects to earmark portions of glass walls and facades while submitting building plans to BMC for approval.

"BMC first decided to issue guidelines in September 2012, following a major fire in the First International Finance Centre at BKC. The blaze continued for two hours before firemen could break open layers of glass to begin operations," a senior fire officer said. "Following that incident, we decided that special norms are required to regulate buildings with glass facades.

After several meetings with architect forums and other experts, we have now drawn up fresh guidelines which will come into effect soon," he added.

600450 Fire Dept, BMC set new guidelines for buildings with glass facades
Date: 14 October 2013

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