A fire started near the roof of a 34 storey condominium tower in Dubai on Saturday and started burning down. The fire appears to have flashed down the building's combustible cladding panels, made from a sandwich of thermoplastic foam and aluminum. This kind of cladding is commonly used in North America on low rise buildings; it is affordable and has good insulating value. In the Emirates, it is on 70% of the buildings. However it is not an ideal product for high rise construction; According to Sandy Dweik,a consultant on the scene, quoted in the National:
"The fire appears to have started on or near the crown at the top of the building, which was covered in this cladding," she said. "The fire then spread down to the cladding, which is installed in strips running down the side of the building."The cladding acted as a fuel and this resulted in the damage we have seen."
There have been a number of fires in the UAE that were fueled by the insulated cladding. TreeHugger has noted in the past that flammable foams have no place in green building and are probably not safe. When they burn they emit dioxins and other toxic products of combustion that can be as deadly as the fire.
The guys at USGBC should show this video to the plastic people the next time they attack LEED for trying to minimize the use of this stuff.