Fireproofing EmiratI Skylines

In the past few years, damaging fires have stunned developers and residents in the United Arab Emirates.
8 December, 2016
Fire-resistant aluminium cladding is now being seen as a key step to preventing future disasters.
On New Year's Eve in 2015, images of a high-rise fire blazing amid Dubai fireworks celebrations swept across social media – yet The Address hotel fire was just one in a series of fires that have sparked officials in the United Arab Emirates to action.

New fire codes are one part of the solution, but so are cutting-edge materials that will make buildings safer and improve compliance with 2017 UAE construction regulations that are designed to keep it that way.

The Alucopanel is one such solution. The aluminium composite panels are designed for exterior cladding that minimizes the risk of fire in the city of modern high-rise offices and apartments.
Alucopanel's product is made from aluminium panels that are either 4.4 or 6mm thick, with a central fire-resistant core. What makes the panels different is that the 3 mm interior core doesn't melt or drip when exposed to the flames, but instead turns into a powder that keeps the fire from spreading.

According to one report, there was not much demand as contractors chose cheaper materials, but that is now changing. In Dubai, it was the exterior cladding that caught fire on the Tamweel Tower in 2012, the Torch Tower, and this summer the Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina. These incidents help explain why the locally based Danube Group, a material and construction firm, is excited to bring the Alucopanel product to a new market.
I think it is the best time to market this project as the hazards of fire have been much in the public eye. Being a materials company, we are also a developer and I want people who buy our properties to know that they are safe.
Rizwan Sajan, founder of Danube Group
In the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council member nations, about 90 percent of the buildings built before 2012 have cladding that is not fire resistant. In Dubai alone, there are about 270 construction projects that were put on hold until safer codes are in place, and fire-rated materials readily available. In many cases, the structures are otherwise completed but cladding can't be done until it is in compliance.

Danube Group, which holds the UAE manufacturing rights for the panels, worked in conjunction with government officials to plan for that safer construction. The company says it can manufacture four million square meters of Alucopanel at its plant near Dubai. More rigorous testing on the panels now includes separating the fire-retardant core materials from their aluminium skins, directly exposing them to fire.

Image: Middle East Experience
The panels are available in 15 metallic finishes as well as 15 solid or plane finishes, and they come in more than 10,000 possible color mixes that can be customized to suit a range of regional developers.
Image: Siemens
While high-rise fire safety has been an important driver for the Alucopanel, architects and design engineers are choosing them for a range of construction projects. One example is the Riyadh Metro in Saudi Arabia, where the new public transportation system is slated for completion in 2018.

The six-line metro system will run a total of 176 kilometers across the city and include 85 stations. The $22.5 billion project includes a Bechtel-led team, a BACS consortium, and suppliers including Siemens and Bombardier, among others working to deliver the largest urban transit system ever built from scratch. The Riyadh Metro Project also will rely on fire-resistant aluminium cladding form Alucopanel.
Banner image: Guff