Eponymously Named Torch Tower in Dubai Catches Fire Again

©. KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images

And once again it demonstrates the folly of foam.

Two years ago we wrote that a Spectacular fire in Dubai Torch Tower demonstrates the folly of foam. At the time I wrote that the building was covered with a polyurethane foam and aluminum panel; in fact, I was wrong. It was, and apparently still is, clad in Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP), similar to those that, according to the New York Times, are used on as many as 30,000 buildings in the United Arab Emirates built before 2012 and are similar to the panels on the Grenfell Tower in London.

In January, the building codes were changed again so that the panels would actually have to be replaced on older buildings. According to the UAE National:

A key new requirement is that builders will have to carry out regular maintenance on cladding panels and replace them after a certain date. “There is a timeline for all cladding and there is maintenance for everything. By that time they’ll have to change it,” Lt Al Taher [of Dubai Civil Defence] said. Under the new rules, buildings that catch fire must have all old cladding panels removed, and not just those damaged by the blaze.

Most of the Dubai fires didn't result in deaths or many injuries; it was lots of drama but but superficial damage. However the Grenfell disaster has probably changed everything when it comes to combustible insulation and cladding. Everyone now recognizes how bad it can get.

It all comes down to money. ACP was an inexpensive way to get a shiny building; I specified the stuff myself when I was an architect. But it's clear that the stuff doesn't belong on tall buildings. In this case, they got lucky; the fire department responded quickly, had the right equipment and put the fire out in a couple of hours. But it is yet another lesson in why we shouldn't use combustible plastics in tall buildings.