Fire safety is at the front of everyone's mind in Qatar at the moment but what approval is needed, how does it affect the construction stage of a development and who is responsible for obtaining it?
Once a building is completed and in use it is the operator of that building who is responsible for it. If Qatar Civil Defence Department approval is not in place for the fire safety system the Minister of Interior may close the building and the operator could be liable for imprisonment up to 3 years.
Before completion it is a different story:
Prior to commencement of construction work the owner of the property shall apply for a permit for the work (the initial approval) from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.
The identity of the contractor and consulting engineer must be filed together with the project plans (and other documents). The Ministry will refer to application to the Civil Defence Department for approval.
The Civil Defence Department will usually request that the fire system work should be done through a licensed company (licensed by them). The contractor is responsible alongside the owner for filing the fire protection plans, air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems in addition to the list of the fire equipment that will be used.
After receiving the initial approval work may start in accordance with the plans approved by both the Civil Defence Department and the Ministry. The works (including fire system) will later be checked against those approved plans before the Ministry will issue a completion certificate. Refusal to issue the certificate and QAR 3,000 fine may follow any deviation.
If initial approval is not obtained the owner, consultant engineers and the contractor may be liable.
Regardless of the law your contract should indicate who is responsible for actually going through the process of obtaining approvals. Under FIDIC it is usually the Contractor but make sure allocation of responsibility is clear particularly where construction/implementation of the fire fighting system is carried out by a party other than the designer. Look out also for situations where the system is divided and implemented by different parties (e.g. in process plants), the approval does not come in parts.