In this week's issue

Non-fire-rated building exteriors are death traps

Test shows how hazardous cladding help spread of flames up and down buildings

  • By Jay B. Hilotin Chief Reporter
  • Published: 23:38 November 21, 2012
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit:
  • Demo fire: The non-fire-rated panel ruptured on the ninth minute

DUBAI A new test has revealed in minute-by-minute detail how the use of non-fire rated exterior insulation could create death traps for building occupants, XPRESS has learnt on the back of a massive fire that gutted the Tamweel Tower, leaving 600 people homeless.

The first-of-its-kind test conducted in Dubai on November 7 demonstrated how a single small fire could turn into a high-rise inferno within 10 minutes as it is made worse by the use of hazardous cladding that helps spread the flames throughout a building.

Test results were released on November 18, which coincided with the day the 34-storey tower at JLT was engulfed in a blaze. The reaction-to-fire test simulated a fully-developed fire erupting from a window. It was conducted by a testing and advisory service firm Al Futtaim Exova using the Building System (BS) 8414 – a standard for testing the fire performance of external cladding systems.

At the 9th minute, the non-fire rated material started casting burning plastic out of the sample, igniting surfaces below. At the 14th minute, it continued to burn beyond the combustion chamber flame front. It also continued to burn after the fire source was extinguished. On the other hand, the fire-rated panel stopped burning then and did not spew combustible materials.

“These are all significant in terms of flame spread and illustrate the difference in performance between a fire-rated and non-fire-rated material in terms of flame spread,” said Andy Dean, general manager for Exova Certification and Inspection for the Middle East. “This knowledge is essential if we are to stop fires moving from floor to floor up (and down) the buildings that we live in.”

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  1. Added 12:23 November 22, 2012

    This is very interesting, but also very alarming !! It is a must-read for everyone who lives in a high-rise building or considering a move to one. I know it is now 'front ¢er' on our list of priorities & in our future planning, since we lived on the 31st floor of Tamweel Tower until 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 18. Sometimes we need a 'wake-up' call (this was ours) because we tend to think this will not happen to us or our building is a high-end luxury tower, so it must be safe. Well, it is obvious that safety is only relative ; should not be taken for granted.. Please remember that, even if you lived on a low floor of Tamweel Tower, you are out of your home for what may be many weeks or even many months. I believe swift & decisive action by the authorities is now most urgent in order to avert further risk to life & property.

    B. P. Fakhry, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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