External cladding fires at UAE skyscrapers
August 4, 2017 - Firefighters battled a blaze at the 79-storey Marina Torch Tower in the United Arab Emirates on Friday – the second fire at the Dubai tower and the seventh UAE skyscraper fire in five years.
Combustible aluminium composite panels are suspected responsible for fires spreading alarmingly rapidly at Dubai’s “supertall” buildings, according to Probyn Myers, a British-based chartered architect in forensic analysis.
In the Gulf, composite panels became widely used as a means of providing a cheap, lightweight, weather tight, insulated building envelope, rapidly erected over the interior structure. However, developments within the UK and U.S. to restrict the use of combustible materials as composite panel cores were not universally followed elsewhere around the world.
Composite panels feature a thin outer metal skin of steel or aluminium and cores of insulating material, which historically have included combustible materials such as expanded polystyrene, polyurethane or polyethylene cores.
Polyethylene is a thermoplastic material, which melts and drips as it burns, spreading the fire downwards as well as upwards. Fire retardant additives can improve fire performance.