Dh50m weapon in the fight against Dubai tower blazes

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - NICK WEB­STER

Fire safety im­prove­ments cost­ing more than Dh50 mil­lion at the 15-storey Adriatic build­ing on The Palm could be repli­cated across Dubai, ex­perts be­lieve.

The build­ing is part of the Oceana com­plex, which was hit by fire in 2016 af­ter an elec­tri­cal fault in a pent­house apart­ment caused ex­te­rior cladding to burst into flames.

The flammable cladding was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the spread of flames.

“The fire iden­ti­fied ar­eas of the cladding that were sus­cep­ti­ble,” said John Stevens, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Asteco Prop­erty Man­age­ment, which runs the build­ings.

“When the fire oc­curred we were wait­ing for the up­dated fire code to come out, so there wasn’t an ap­proved panel in place at the time.

“Rather than re­plac­ing the pan­els with more pan­els, we have used a con­crete ren­der. So we have switched a ma­te­rial that was flammable with some­thing that just can’t burn.”

The evolv­ing safety code has banned the use of cladding with a poly­eth­yl­ene core sim­i­lar to that found in pan­els at Gren­fell Tower in Lon­don, where 72 peo­ple died in a fire in June last year.

Other build­ings across Dubai are likely to fol­low the lead Asteco has taken on safety mea­sures. Fires in res­i­den­tial build­ings have put the spot­light on flammable cladding and the ma­te­ri­als used in some mod­ern tow­ers.

A fire erupted in Zen Tower in Dubai Ma­rina in May, and other high-pro­file Dubai fires have oc­curred at The Torch build­ing – twice – Tamweel Tower and the Ad­dress Ho­tel in Down­town. Last year there were al­most 200 blazes recorded in res­i­den­tial build­ings.

Cladding on the Adriatic fa­cade has been up­graded to the A2 stan­dard pan­els, now com­pul­sory in new build­ings un­der the safety code. These pan­els have a stone core, mak­ing them much less sus­cep­ti­ble to ig­nit­ing.

The Adriatic build­ing has been re­paired un­der the man­age­ment group’s in­sur­ance pol­icy. All res­i­dents who were given tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion at the nearby Fair­mont Palm Ho­tel and Re­sort have moved back in.

A ten­der­ing process is due to be­gin to carry out sim­i­lar work on six other build­ings in the Oceana com­plex, where the up­grade is ex­pected to take at least 14 months. The work will re­duce in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums for the prop­erty.

“Our an­nual in­sur­ance bill be­fore the fire was about Dh900,000,” Mr Stevens said. “Af­ter the fire, that went up to Dh3.6 mil­lion.

“With the works we have com­pleted, we have re­duced that to Dh2.5m and there is a com­mit­ment from the in­sur­ance com­pany to see a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion for the other build­ings we have.

“It is a huge cost to re­place ex­ist­ing cladding so the chal­lenge for other build­ings that need this kind of work will be fund­ing. That could add a lot of money to ser­vice charges.”

Fire safety con­sul­tants say man­age­ment of ev­ery build­ing should be look­ing at ways to re­duce risk. En­gi­neer­ing com­pany WSP is com­plet­ing ex­ten­sive fire safety re­views.

“Fire risk re­views are hap­pen­ing across Dubai and else­where,” said Andy Dean, head of fa­cades at WSP. “We are look­ing at each build­ing to see what can be done.

“There are a va­ri­ety of op­tions open to man­age­ment com­pa­nies to ad­dress their fire risk. It could be the par­tial re­moval of cladding, the in­tro­duc­tion of cav­ity bar­ri­ers, fire breaks or other ther­mal bar­ri­ers.

“It could in­volve the in­tro­duc­tion of other ac­tive fire-sup­pres­sion sys­tems. There are many op­tions avail­able and the best so­lu­tion is of­ten a blended so­lu­tion of these al­ter­ations.”

In Fe­bru­ary, a man­ual was re­leased to help civil de­fence, lo­cal and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties iden­tify and pri­ori­tise build­ings with flammable cladding.

The Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased its on­line fire risk assess­ment tool to help au­thor­i­ties around the world rate build­ings more than 18 me­tres tall with com­bustible fa­cades, and sug­gest mea­sures to re­duce the dan­ger.

“We are see­ing a grow­ing ap­petite from de­vel­op­ers and fa­cil­ity man­agers to en­gage in this kind of work,” Mr Dean said. “That is be­ing driven by a need to lower risk to peo­ple and prop­erty.

“The com­mu­nity is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware of a risk from cer­tain cladding ma­te­ri­als, so peo­ple are mak­ing in­formed choices now about where they want to live and how much they pay for their prop­erty.

“Peo­ple with fam­i­lies want to live in safe build­ings and the own­ers are re­act­ing to that.”

Gary Bar­nett

The Adriatic build­ing fire on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai was one of sev­eral blazes that re­sulted in a new safety code

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