37 buildings identified with unsafe cladding; removal required by end-October

37 buildings identified with unsafe cladding; removal required by end-October

toh guan road building
The building at 30 Toh Guan Road. (Photo: Junn Loh) 

SINGAPORE: As of Sep 8, a total of 37 buildings in Singapore may have used cladding on their external walls that does not comply with fire safety standards, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament on Monday (Sep 11).

The figure is an update to the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) announcement on Aug 24, which identified 40 buildings on its checklist.

Mr Shanmugam said authorities took a “zero-tolerance approach” in the identification of affected buildings then. “We took the approach (that) as long as the building had public access and even if the cladding was 3 per cent of the external wall, we will still identify it.”

Since then, more tests have been carried out and it has been established that there are 37 buildings in Singapore that may have used Alubond composite panels as cladding on their external walls.

Among the 20 buildings tested so far, five have been given the all-clear while the rest were found to have used composite panels as cladding that were not of standard required under the Fire Code, according to Mr Shanmugam. The percentage of cladding for these 15 buildings may range from 3 to less than 25 per cent, he added.

The SCDF has conducted comprehensive on-site fire safety assessments of the affected buildings and noted these buildings remain fit and safe for occupancy.

Nonetheless, these buildings are required to remove the non-compliant padding within two months, said Mr Shanmugam. This process should be completed by the end of October.

The discovery of the use of combustible cladding that do not meet fire safety requirements came after an industrial building at 30 Toh Guan Road caught fire in May, which resulted in the death of a 54-year-old woman. Investigations by the SCDF found that the composite panels used as cladding on the building's external walls were not certified as Class 0 as required under the Fire Code.

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. 

Nee Soon GRC Er Dr Lee Bee Wah asked if the SCDF has checked lifts under the Lift Upgrading Programme for the use of non-Class ‘0’ on core cladding.

To that, Mr Shanmugam said the vast majority of HDB blocks do not use cladding or use only non-combustible cladding. Only a “small number” use composite panels as cladding on the exterior of lift shafts and the SCDF has checked that these panels meet fire safety requirements.

Still, the Government will work with relevant agencies and the building industry to review processes, Mr Shanmugam said.

For example, the Government will explore whether composite panels of different classes of flame-spread could be more clearly differentiated using identifiable labels to reduce the possibility of the wrong type of composite panels being used.

Meanwhile, an advisory has been issued to all Qualified Persons and Registered Inspectors as a reminder to carry out careful checks on the intended cladding’s Certificate of Conformity and test reports.

"If they have any doubt whatsoever that the cladding is Class 0 on core standard, they have been advised to send samples for tests at an accredited testing laboratory,” Mr Shanmugam said.

Qualified Persons are appointed registered architects or professional engineers responsible for selecting compliant materials and products for a building project. An independent Registered Inspector checks a completed building before the SCDF issues a Fire Safety Certificate allowing the premises to be used or occupied.

Regarding questions from other MPs on the Government's plans to conduct more thorough testing or audit of all cladding used, Mr Shanmugam said authorities are looking beyond the projects supplied by Chip Soon Aluminium, the local distributor of the Alubond composite panels.

Preliminary investigations have suggested that the Singapore distributor had mixed up stocks of two models with different fire safety standards at its warehouse.

In addition, the composite panels of the model certified to be Class 0 appeared to be of different quality. Authorities are investigating if this is a manufacturing issue, Mr Shanmugam said.

For now, however, the internationally-used method of sampling should remain effective but the Government will consider if further steps are necessary after the completion of investigations, he added.

Source: CNA/sk