Probe launched into high-rise fire threat

Fake products used on tower developments are a fire risk time bomb, experts warn. An investigation is underway into the fire safety of pre-insulated panels being used for towers under construction throughout the UAE.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  October 15, 2005

An investigation is underway into the fire safety of pre-insulated panels being used for towers under construction throughout the UAE. Construction Week has learned that officials at Dubai Municipality are studying the use of specific types of ducts used in air conditioning systems, following claims that they are highly flammable and emit toxic fumes. And a CW investigation has revealed that some local dealers claiming to supply products from Europe are instead using locally-manufactured copycat materials which are not factory fire-rated. It means that highly flammable panels that can produce deadly cyanide hydroxide gas when ignited, are being supplied on building sites across the region. Dubai Municipality engineer Khader Akkawi confirmed that the building department was currently investigating the use of these panels. Several UAE-based fire safety consultants and product suppliers contacted by CW said that the use of fake locally-manufactured panels masquerading as European-sourced products was rife in the industry. Freddy Lama, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based Nova Electromechanical, said: “In reality, many local sandwich panels are not imported from European factories. The raw ingredients are purchased from suspect sources from the Far East, and the panels are manufactured in Sharjah’s industrial areas under unregulated conditions and without conformity to ratings or standards.” “After two years of extensive research into the matter, I have found that there is a growing understanding by some decent contractors and consultants that this is an unacceptable solution which does not conform to building codes and which could result in a very serious loss of life and massive fire damage in the future.” The allegations have been supported by other fire safety consultants in the UAE. “These allegations are very serious. The aircon market is aware of this but nobody wants to take a lead,” said Vilay Deshpande, operations manager at international fire safety consultant Locke Carey. Some experts who spoke to CW said that the problem of counterfeit products being used in safety-critical fire applications was now rife in the UAE market. Martin Kealy, manager of international practices at Schirmer Engineering, said: “This has now become very common practice and we are currently looking into a case where fire dampers that were being used on a building had a sticker on them saying they were UL-listed. “UL is one of the biggest test houses in the world and if it has a UL listing it means that it is a good product. “But when we looked at the dampers, only a tiny bit of metal had been UL-tested, the rest had been knocked up locally. “It’s a bit scary and I would hope that the big high-rise towers under construction would have proper consultants who won’t cut corners, but some of them may be ignorant that many of these products are fakes.”

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