Experts

Affected buildings may not be unsafe, say experts, Housing News & Top Stories

Building experts have cautioned against prematurely linking the Grenfell Tower in London and Torch Tower in Dubai with the 36 buildings in Singapore with potentially problematic cladding material.

All the buildings do share similar material – that is, aluminium composite panels – albeit from different brands.

But this does not mean that the buildings in Singapore are unsafe, they said.

In its checks, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had determined that they are “fit and safe for occupancy due to their existing fire provisions”, it said on Thursday.

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These include well-ventilated escape routes, fire hose reels, sprinklers and fire alarms. Buildings here are also made to compartmentalise fires within individual floors or rooms through fire-rated doors, walls and ceilings.

Police in Britain have said they believe the cladding panels added during a refurbishment of Grenfell Tower may have contributed to the rapid spread of a fire there in June in which 80 people died.

But not all of the affected buildings here featured prominent cladding on the external walls, noted the experts.

At Our Tampines Hub, for example, the affected cladding panels comprise less than 5 per cent of the building’s external facade, said the People’s Association.

Mr Seet Choh San, chairman of the Singapore Standards Technical Committee for Workplace Safety and Health, said: “From a safety point of view, you have to look at the system as a whole, in totality, because cladding is only one part of a building’s (defence against) fire.”

The British media reported that the cladding material used in Grenfell was sold under the brand Reynobond.

Made by American firm Arconic, distributors had sold three models of the panels within Britain, each with different fire ratings.

Reports said the one used at Grenfell Tower had a polyethylene (PE) – a type of plastic – core, which had the least stringent fire rating and was suitable for use in buildings up to 10m in height. Grenfell Tower was 60m tall.

SCDF has said it will review the fire safety regulations and processes for certification relating to the use of composite panels on buildings to ensure that they remain robust.

Ng Jun Sen

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