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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Dubai property regulator calls for collaboration to identify buildings with non-fire safe cladding

Regulator asks developer, owners to work together to identify towers where non-fire rated aluminium cladding must be changed

Thick black smoke from the Fountain Views tower in Dubai last year. Courtesy Griet Wyseur
Thick black smoke from the Fountain Views tower in Dubai last year. Courtesy Griet Wyseur

A Dubai property regulator has renewed calls for developers and owners to work together to identify towers where combustible aluminium cladding must be changed and outlined details about a new safety drive to replace the facades.

The Real Estate Regulatory Agency, the regulatory arm of the Dubai Land department, will provide a list of government approvals required to repair older buildings with non-fire rated cladding and has made it mandatory for owners’ associations to issue tenders to ensure fair prices for overhaul of façade portions that must be changed.

A senior official described it as necessary to protect residents in the emirate’s towers and part of an overall aim to adhere to high standards and continue attracting investments in property, tourism and business.

“We have made it a requirement that tenders are conducted to find the best quotations for the replacements. Developers and management companies will resort to government agencies to obtain necessary licenses and approvals,” said Mohammed Khalifa bin Hammad, senior director of Rera’s real estate regulatory department.

“Rera has begun granting fee approvals from owners of joint-owned properties to replace non-fireproof cladding materials with fireproof cladding materials. It should be noted that the change from non-fireproof to fireproof cladding materials will significantly reduce the insurance fees for these buildings.”

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Read more:

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Major property companies have already spoken out saying their buildings are in line with government criteria.

The focus on fire safety and scrutiny of the materials used on building facades intensified after the Grenfell Tower blaze in London that killed at least 80 people in June and several high-rise tower fires in the UAE, including the recent Torch tower fire in August, the second in one of the world’s tallest residential buildings in less than three years.

“Non-fireproof cladding materials will be replaced with fireproof materials within common areas but not inside owned units. The developers and management companies will take care of the residents of these buildings,” Mr Hammad said.

He said owners were being “encouraged to replace the facades of non-fireproof buildings in cooperation with real estate developers,” based on security guidelines from Dubai Municipality and Civil Defence.

“This includes ensuring the effectiveness of firefighting systems in order to ensure the safety of residents, which is part of our wider endeavour to preserve Dubai’s reputation as one of the world’s leading destinations for business, investment, tourism, and accommodation,” Mr Hammad said.

The flammable thermo-plastic core within the aluminium composite panels, now banned in new constructions, has been blamed by experts for fuelling fire in skyscrapers in the UAE and globally.

As per new regulations, the core within the aluminium panel skin must consist of the highest quality fire-retardant minerals that can limit the fire spread.

But buildings that predate the 2012 UAE Fire and Life Safety Code give cause for concern with measures needed to delay potential flames from sweeping over the structure.

Rera said it was committed to proactive and preventative measures along with developers such as Dubai Properties to reduce fire accidents and identified plans in the Business Bay area where measures have already been implemented in a statement last month.

Dubai Properties said its developments met safety standards.

“Our major developments, including the Executive Towers, Vision Tower and Bay Square projects in the Business Bay area, already meet the required specifications and do not need replacing,” said Marwan Al Kindi, executive director at Dubai Properties.

Mr Al Kindi said the developer welcomed the Land Department’s drive to replace non-fire resistant building facades, adding that the company had selected cladding and construction material based on the highest fire-resistance standards.

Another major developer Nakheel too said “all existing and upcoming Nakheel buildings meet Dubai’s fire safety standards in terms of building materials and standards.”

A spokeswoman said Nakheel would continue to observe and comply with any new regulations.

Al Thuriah Properties said fire barriers were in place in projects it had constructed since 2005 with all towers using fire-retardant cladding.

No towers within the developer’s older projects required replacement, a spokesman said.