Rapid dev’t spurs PH home buyers’ demand for fire safety
Much like insurance, a building’s safety is often taken for granted until the need for it arises – at which point it is too late to do anything about it.
Catastrophes – both natural such as earthquakes and man-made such as terrorism – figure prominently in people’s worries, and sometimes more common disasters such as fire often take a backseat.
While both fires didn’t result in human casualties, the cost is palpable in other ways such as the loss of decades’ worth of knowledge and experience.
There is also an economic cost to these fires: UP estimated the loss at P3 million while UE pegged it P22 million.
These costs add up. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) estimates that fire incidents nationwide totaled more than 17,000 in 2015, resulting in over P3 billion in damages.
Data from the BFP also show that fire incidents have increased by 51% from 2011 to 2015.
Fortunately, economics may also provide the country with a clear path to better fire standards as the same economic growth behind the booming real estate sector has also made citizens more discerning in terms of quality of structures.
"The Philippines' rapid development places it at an inflection point, along with nations such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, wherein people are starting to really worry about safety standards in buildings and in homes," said Harish Vellat, vice president, security and fire, at Honeywell, a global manufacturer of security and automation solutions.
These solutions come in the form of advanced fire and safety protection such as smoke detectors, motion sensors, closed circuit security cameras or CCTVs, amd gas sensors, among others.
“Once you have a nice home and you have the comfort down, then you start to worry about whether it is really safe,” he said at a forum on safety and protection on Tuesday, April 12.
A survey commissioned by Honeywell among Filipino respondents shows that while most people are aware of the threat posed by fires an alarming number are not aware of basic safety procedures including knowing where the fire exits are.
The survey – conducted by global market research firm Ispsos in order to better understand the gaps in and concerns in fire safety and drive public awareness – was conducted among 500 people who work in, or regularly visit, 5 key public areas: malls, corporate buildings, hotels, hospitals, and airports.
Some highlights from the survey findings:
- Fire is seen as the gravest man-made threat to physical safety while terrorism is the greatest threat to security
- 23% of respondents (users and employees combined) are not aware of fire exit locations
- Almost 4 in 10 visitors to airports, shopping malls, corporate offices, hotels. and hospitals are not aware of fire exit locations within the facility
- 6 out of 10 visitors to shopping malls and 4 out 10 hospital employees do not know how to operate fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers
Opportunity in the Philippines
For Vellat, the survey is proof that the Philippine market is ripe for more sophisticated security products, especially now that it is seen as a economic rising star.
“Looking at the GDP growth, the Philippines is obviously a very attractive destination for any firm in the safety industry,” he said.
He added, “In our best estimate the market is at $100 -$120 million in terms of opportunity from a product point of view and it's growing at an annual rate of roughly at 10-12%."
What used to happen in the Philippines was that "multinationals were the early adopters but its now gotten to a point where local companies are incorporating the quality fire standards as well," Vellat said.
Commercial real estate, in particular, has been booming led by the IT industry. This is where Honeywell sees the most opportunities.
He pointed out that much of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is driven by the services sector.
The fact that the BPO industry is shifting more and more from call center operations to data management is also encouraging as an increasing number of data centers begin to pop up around the country.
"Because of their importance, aata centers are very, very well protected the world over often employ more sophisticated fire and security systems," Vellat said.
“It's for the simple reason that they hold very critical information like bank records, for example. A fire – it would result in a significant loss in business confidence of customers if there should be a loss so it's become a core of businesses,” he explained.
Beyond opportunities in the commercial side, Vellat predicts that the economic trend will eventually open up bigger opportunities in the residential space.
The country actually has pretty good fire safety standards as they are modeled after those in the US, Vellat said. But standards in residential areas need improvement.
He pointed out that while commercial buildings are required to have smoke detectors, no such rule exists for residential buildings as of yet. At present, this is left to the discretion of developers.
“The real remarkable opportunity in terms of pushing for higher safety standards is in the residential sector. If you look at Thailand, it is currently demanding that every condominium has to have a smoke or heat detector inside the apartment and that’s a good thing,” Vellat said.
This is especially true as if you look at the fire statistics from the BFP that show that 70% of fire incidence occur in homes, he said. “It's a wake up call for the country to do that, and in other countries they do it."
That isn’t to say, however, that the Philippines' fast growing pool of condominiums aren’t safe. Vellat pointed out that the country's major developers are now beginning to invest heavily in advanced fire safety due to customer demand.
“People are starting to think about these things, especially reputable architects and developers. They don’t want their name on something that burned down. After all, it's their reputation on the line and that takes a long time to build." – Rappler.com
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