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Sri Lanka property developer working to raise high-rise fire safety standards

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan property developers are working with government authorities to improve fire safety standards in new high-rise buildings mushrooming in Colombo and other towns, an official said.

Nayana Mawilmada, sector head of John Keells Properties, said concerns over fire hazards in high-rise buildings and lack of capacity of local authority fire fighters to tackle them were valid and being addressed.

“It is an evolving area. We are working hard with the regulators to get the best possible regulations,” he told a forum on the property market.

“It is an area where the government does need to step up its act, where there is a requirement for more policy focus.”

The forum was held by John Keells Properties, together with DFCC Bank, and featured guest speaker Michael Yam, a well-known figure in the Malaysian property industry.

It heard concerns over fire safety in the dozens of high-rise apartment and office blocks mushrooming in Colombo, its suburbs and other big towns in the island, given inadequate fire fighting capacity of local authorities.

Yam said that in Malaysia, developers and city authorities were better equipped to tackle emergencies like fire, being governed by very strict building codes, often of British or American standards.

“Many condominiums in Malaysia have two sets of fire escapes. In most countries there is only one,” Yam said.

“So the building code is important. For example, apartments have fire proof doors. Our track record has been good. We have had hardly any serious incidents.”

Mawilmada said the bigger and better developers were “going the extra mile in building fire safety standards, having more refuge areas and fire escapes.”

“We are working on it. The government needs to look at the property development space as a serious sector that’s going to drive the transformation of the city and help developers.”

Mawilmada said construction costs in Sri Lanka were about 30 percent higher than in Malaysia, driven up by a “ridiculous amount of taxes”.
(COLOMBO, 24 September 2019)