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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Dubai begins retrofitting skyscrapers to protect against fires

Move follows spate of tall building fires and concerns over flammable cladding

The Torch - one of the tallest residential towers in the world - went up in flames for a second time on August 4. Antonie Robertson / The National
The Torch - one of the tallest residential towers in the world - went up in flames for a second time on August 4. Antonie Robertson / The National

Skyscrapers with potentially flammable cladding are to under go work to better protect them against fires, the Dubai Government announced on Saturday.

The process of replacing some facades with fire-resistant materials is in response to a series of blazes in tall buildings, including two fires in Dubai Marina's The Torch.

The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), which is the regulatory arm of the Dubai Land Department (DLD), said it has already implemented these measures with a number of companies, including Dubai Properties, and its developments; Executive Towers, Vision Tower and Bay Square in the Business Bay area.

"By replacing building facades that do not comply with our fire resistance safety requirements, we are supporting DLD's vision of making Dubai the world’s safest and securest residential and investment destination,” said Mohammed Khalifa bin Hammad, senior director of the real estate regulatory department at RERA.

“As DLD prioritises safety, investor confidence and customer happiness, it is implementing proactive solutions through its specialised departments to provide protection for both investors and residents.”

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Mr bin Hammad said that this project has been launched to ensure the safety of residents and save lives, while also preserving the emirate’s reputation as a leading destination for business, investment, travel and accommodation.

He said RERA is now strongly encouraging all building owners to replace non-fire-resistant building facades in collaboration with the city’s real estate developers.

Non-fire-rated cladding consisting of a combustible, low-density polyethylene sandwiched between aluminium panels has been banned by authorities, but many older buildings predate the 2012 Fire and Life Safety Code that outlaws this material.

Aluminium cladding with a combustible thermoplastic core was linked to fast-spreading fires in five major skyscrapers, including at The Torch and the Address Downtown.

Last month, The National revealed that the Government and fire safety experts were examining the installation of 'fire-breakers' - panels of fire-resistant material that could be added to existing buildings to stop fast-spreading blazes.

During the Torch fire on August 4, the blaze quickly spread to 64 floors, raising concerns about the materials used to built it and about how such a fast moving could be stalled in the future.