Tower cladding in UAE fuels fire

500 skyscrapers in the UAE have panels made of flammable material

  • The flammable exterior tiles of Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah helped flames spread with ease
    As many as 400 families were left homeless after fire broke out at Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah on April 28.Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News
  • The flammable exterior tiles of Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah helped flames spread with ease
    Al Tayer Tower in Al Nahda (left) and Al Baker Tower. Residents of two Sharjah tower blocks have suffered the Image Credit: Ahmed ramzan/Gulf News & Gulf News Archive
19 Gulf News

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



Details about non fire-rated cladding panel



Details about non fire-rated cladding panel

Details about non fire-rated cladding panel

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Sharjah will never change


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