The cause of the fatal fire that broke out in London’s 24-storey Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 is currently still unknown, but the speed with which it spread has been attributed to a recently-installed exterior cladding. (Photo: Designingbuildings.co.uk)
The increased use of cladding, which is an extra layer made of aluminium or plastic panels covering the exterior façade of buildings, has come under close scrutiny lately, after the ventilation gaps between the building walls and cladding at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London helped spread the fire quickly, reported Today Online.
“The air in the ventilation gap behind the faced panels becomes heated by the fire and starts rising very quickly,” said Assistant Professor Michael Budig, who specialises in architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
“This causes high upward wind speeds, while fresh air will get sucked into the gaps at the bottom of the façade, further supplying the fire with more oxygen.”
But unlike in London, wherein the gaps between the cladding and building walls are filled with thermal insulation material to help out with ventilation, the process for cladding is different in Singapore.
Budig noted that the cladding here is more porous, with no additional insulation material that may potentially increase fire hazards.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) said “the Singapore Fire Code stipulates the fire safety requirements for all buildings in Singapore, including the types of construction materials and conditions for use of claddings on external walls of buildings”.
An SCDF spokesperson noted that materials used for all buildings in Singapore should meet the stringent requirement of the class ‘0’ standard.
“The class ‘0’ standard is an industry unit measurement on the flame spread, with the number ‘0’ indicating that the material when ignited, the fire will not spread along its surface. Such materials must also comply with local product certification, which requires periodic testing to ensure product integrity and compliance as stipulated in the Fire Code.”
This article was edited by Denise Djong.