SINGAPORE: A total of 36 buildings here may have used external cladding that does not meet fire safety requirements here, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on Thursday (Aug 24).
This was discovered after investigations into a fire that broke out at an industrial building at 30 Toh Guan Road in May. A 54-year-old woman died in that fire.
SCDF found that the composite panels used as cladding on the building's external walls were combustible and not certified as Class 0 as required under the Fire Code.
Apart from the Toh Guan Road industrial building, 14 other buildings were found to have used cladding that was not certified as Class 0. They include Our Tampines Hub, Clementi Fire Station, blocks at Singapore Polytechnic and luxury condominiums The Peak @ Cairnhill I and II.
Three of these buildings - Clementi Fire Station and two McDonald's outlets - have since removed the affected cladding, said the SCDF in a news release.
Another 21 buildings have yet to have their external cladding tested.
COMPOSITE PANELS WERE FROM AMERICAN BRAND ALUBOND
According to the SCDF, the buildings it listed all used composite panels from American brand Alubond.
Its Singapore distributor had mixed up stocks of two models with different fire safety standards - Class 0 and 1 - meaning that some of the buildings could be using external cladding with less stringent standards.
Under the Fire Code, there are five classes of certification - 0 to 4 - which indicate the rate at which flames can spread. Composite panels that fall under Class 0 means that the fire will not spread along the surface of the material when ignited.
Extensive investigations found that the affected cladding material was supplied to 41 buildings, including the Toh Guan Road building which caught fire. Of these buildings, five have since been tested to have used the Class 0 cladding as required.
However, SCDF said all the buildings are safe for occupancy, adding that it is working with building owners to remove the affected cladding within two months.
"SCDF conducted comprehensive on-site fire safety assessments of the 40 buildings. All of them remain fit and safe for occupancy due to their existing fire safety provisions," it explained.
POLICE REPORT FILED
The SCDF revealed that it filed a police report on Jul 6, following its investigations into the Toh Guan fire. The authorities are also looking into how the supplier of the Alubond composite panels had mixed up the different materials.
Chip Soon Aluminium, the distributor of the Alubond products, said in a statement that it was "shocked and dismayed" to learn that the products did not meet Singapore fire safety standards.
The distributor said it was conducting its own investigations into the products. "In particular, we are demanding a response from the manufacturer of the products on the products' compliance with the appropriate standards and we will not be supplying these products until these issues are satisfactorily resolved."
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the owners of the 30 Toh Guan Road building said that the cladding panels "were installed in compliance with then-existing fire safety guidelines".
"In consultation with SCDF, we removed the cladding from 30 Toh Guan to ensure that business operations could resume as soon as possible," it added.
As for Our Tampines Hub, the affected panels make up "less than 5 per cent of the total envelope of the development", said the People's Association.
"The affected panels will be removed," it added. "We have informed our tenants and stakeholders of the findings, and have assured them that operations will not be affected."
Meanwhile, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is working closely with SCDF to test the cladding on the external walls of Connection One and Depot Heights Shopping Centre, a HDB spokesperson said. If the cladding is found not to be of Class ‘0’ standard, it will be "removed expeditiously," she added. SCDF has conducted comprehensive fire safety assessments of the buildings and confirmed that they are fit and safe for occupancy, she said.
Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church said a few panels of its building feature the affected cladding, and that it is taking advice from the Qualified Person appointed for the building project to rectify the issue. In the meantime, the church and kindergarten activities will continue as usual, as the building is assessed by SCDF to be safe, a representative said.