UAE | Housing & Property

Tower cladding in UAE fuels fire

500 skyscrapers in the UAE have panels made of flammable material

  • By Derek Baldwin Chief Reporter and Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 May 2, 2012
  • Gulf News

The flammable exterior tiles of Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah helped flames spread with ease
  • Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News
  • As many as 400 families were left homeless after fire broke out at Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah on April 28.
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Sharjah: Hundreds of skyscrapers across the UAE are wrapped in dangerous non fire-rated aluminium cladding panels that may put lives in danger in the event of a fire, Gulf News has learnt.

A top executive with the cladding panel industry said non fire-rated panel cores are made of low density polyethylene, a petrochemical product that burns within minutes compared to certified fire-retardant panels that repel fire.

The conversation with the industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, came on the heels of a third major tower fire in the last six months in Sharjah that rendered hundreds of families homeless on April 28.

"At least 500 towers in the country have non fire-rated panels installed over the last 25 years," he said. "The cost of removing a non-fire panel is not small, it's about Dh100 a square metre. A 40-storey building could cost Dh500,000 [to replace bad tiles with proper fire-retardant panels]."

Need for legislation

Without any legislation in place to force mandatory installation of fire-retardant materials, he warned that 100 high-rises now under construction in the UAE may also be enclosed with gleaming composite panels that do not meet international fire-safety codes.

"This has become a national problem," the senior executive said. "This has to be looked into very seriously by the authorities. The right legislation needs to be passed. Non fire-rated panels should be banned when they are used over 10 stories. Non fire-rated panels will burn like paper."

A Sharjah Municipality official said there is no ban on the use of non fire-retardant panels on high-rises. "We are responsible only for the design of the building and not the materials used," the official said. "Contractors must provide [fire-retardant] certificates for each material used in construction for it to be approved by Civil Defence."

Napoleon Soldevilla, a senior fire protection engineer at design firm Burthill said: "People are accustomed to using non fire-retardant materials. Moreover, fire-resistant materials are more expensive."

— With additional inputs from Mariam Al Serkal, Staff Reporter

 

Comments (19)

  1. Added 18:35 May 2, 2012

    Sharjah will never change

    Moe, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 17:54 May 2, 2012

    Hello, please use fire rated panels because human being life is cost less, refer below mentioned points 1. For 2 hours fire rated panels they use 3 mm thk. non-combustible mineral filled core + both side aluminum 0.5 mm thk. (Aluminum Hydroxide, 2Al(Oh)3+3H20, Heat obsorbtion. 2. For ACM Non fire rated panels they use 3 mm thk. 100% polyethylene core + both side 0.5 mm thk. aluminum this may catch fire immediate like paper. (polyethylene, (-CH2-) + O2 ->Co2+H2o, Heat Generation)

    SHAIKH FAYAZ ALI, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 17:30 May 2, 2012

    Be careful.. don't choose Aluminium cladding panel building.. Very dangerous..Already gone 3 Building in Sharjah for the past 3 months...

    nibu, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 16:23 May 2, 2012

    This opinion is not new. If the rule does not say "flammable material should not to be used", anything can be used and certfied for OFC? It is necssarily safe to get out of those glossy panel buildings, if we really care for our lives and families. If you ask, every landlord would claim that their buidling panels are fire rated and they will have someone to certify that also. Never ever accept mistakes??? and blame it on generic rules?

    Kohinoor, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:19 May 2, 2012

    A Sharjah Municipality official said there is no ban on the use of non fire-retardant panels on high-rises. "We are responsible only for the design of the building and not the materials used," a very irresponsible statement from sharjah muncipality,

    mukaram, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 13:55 May 2, 2012

    I just have one question. If these panels are so flammable, how is it that the authorities allowed them to be used? I actually heard about this a while ago, and a rumour that the officials wanted to change these panels. How is that possible? If the majority of buildings in Sharjah use that? They're going to kick people out of their homes, strip the buildings to the core and apply a new finish?

    Lara, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 13:54 May 2, 2012

    A Sharjah Municipality official said there is no ban on the use of non fire-retardant panels on high-rises. "We are responsible only for the design of the building and not the materials used," the official said. "Contractors must provide [fire-retardant] certificates for each material used in construction for it to be approved by Civil Defence." Specifications should be part of designing. How this thing passed the municipality? Now, who is to blame for the fire?

    E-Louise, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 13:37 May 2, 2012

    This is really serious issue and the authorities need to act fast and stop the flammable materials used as insulation materials in buildings. We are lucky here that the fire alarms were working and people could get out immediately before the poisonous fumes engulfed and made them unconcious! Fire alarms need to be periodically checked for proper function. I have lived in a flat in Al Nahda for almost a year and I have not seen anyone checking these. Summer is around the corner and if we don't act, we will be sorry to see many more such fires, which is a bad reputation for our nation.

    Ravi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 13:17 May 2, 2012

    It's really sad to see that authorities in Sharjah commenting by the book that they are responsible for material used in construction and mentioning that Fire proof material is expensive. well is these goods are expensive than the cost of lives and their hard earn saving from so many years, it's just a tactic to reduce the cost of construction and putting innocent people's lives at risk....Sad, really Sad

    Faisal, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 13:08 May 2, 2012

    I was a resident of Al Tayer building last year, we were staying on the first floor and it had a huge balcony which needed to be cleaned on a daily basis due to garbage coming from almost all the residents from higher floors. From cans, rotten food, kitchen utensils including a knife at one point, and the most often, lit cigarette butts. We had verbal and written complaints to the building's management but no action was taken. One time around 7pm as I went to the balcony a fire was burning in our neighbor's balcony due to cigarettes that were thrown from upper floors. I immediately informed the management and we extinguished the fire, took some photos and that was it. We immediately cancelled our contract and shifted to a new flat. I was not surprised when that building caught fire; it was a disaster waiting to happen.

    Rommel , Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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