Singapore

35 buildings may have combustible cladding that do not comply with Fire Code

Suspect cladding found on external walls

Investigations into the warehouse fire at Toh Guan Road on May 4, which killed a woman, found that the cladding on the external walls of the building did not pass the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Fire Code.

Yesterday, the SCDF revealed it had flagged 40 other buildings with possible cladding issues.

Five have been tested and deemed safe, 21 other buildings have yet to undergo tests while 14 have been found to be using combustible cladding that allow flames to spread.

The buildings include residential properties like condominiums The Peak@Cairnhill and The Boutiq, two McDonald's outlets, parts of Singapore Polytechnic, the recently opened Our Tampines Hub and commercial interests like 321 Clementi and Depot Heights Shopping Centre.

The SCDF stressed, though, that all the buildings are safe for occupancy.

"... SCDF has assessed that all the buildings are safe for occupancy, and is working closely with building owners to rectify the improper use of composite panels on their building within two months," its statement said.

The sole distributor for the panels of the walls for the 41 buildings is local company Chip Soon Aluminium, who used American brand Alubond.

We took swift action to remove the composite panels at two of our restaurants the moment this was brought to our attention. Customer and workplace safety is of utmost importance to us, and we will spare no effort to ensure a safe environment for all. McDonald's spokesman

Investigations into the Toh Guan fire found that the cladding on the warehouse's external walls were not of Class '0' standard, which is a requirement in SCDF's Fire Code.

Police investigations revealed that stocks of a model of panels known as FRB1, certified as Class '0', were mixed together with another model FRB2, certified as Class '1', at a warehouse of the local distributor.

Class '0' panels will not cause fire to spread, while Classes '1' to '4' will.

SCDF said the FRB1 stocks were also "not uniformly of the required standard".

A police report was lodged by the SCDF on July 6.

When contacted, Chip Soon Aluminium told The New Paper that it had ceased supplying Alubond here.

A spokesman said the two Alubond products in question were manufactured by Eurocon Building Industries FZE in the United Arab Emirates.

He said: "We have been shocked and dismayed to learn from the SCDF that it believes that FRB1 and FRB2 may not be of the requisite Class '0' standard as required under the Singapore Fire Code as we have always believed these products to be fully compliant and properly certified."

He added that the company takes SCDF's allegations seriously and is conducting its own investigations.

"In particular, we are demanding a response from the manufacturer of the products on the product's compliance with the appropriate safety standards and we will not be supplying these products until these issues are satisfactorily resolved

"We are actively cooperating with the SCDF and the authorities and will continue to take steps necessary to ensure public safety."

All costs to replace unsafe cladding will be borne by building owners.

The two McDonald's outlets flagged have already had the unsafe cladding removed.

A spokesman told TNP: "We took swift action to remove the composite panels at two of our restaurants the moment this was brought to our attention. Customer and workplace safety is of utmost importance to us, and we will spare no effort to ensure a safe environment for all."

The Toh Guan fire was followed by two major fires - at Grenfell Tower in London in June and then Dubai's Torch Tower earlier this month. Reports have said that both fires spread due to combustible external cladding.

Workplace safety consultant at Bibline Consulting and a certified fire safety manager, Mr Lee Wee Kiat, expressed his shock at the panel stock mix-up, saying that such an incident "should not happen".

"The panels of different classes might look the same, but it is important to make sure that they are not confused with one another because the effects could be dangerous," he said.

RELATED STORY

FireSingapore Civil Defence ForceMINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS (MHA)