Over last few months we have seen a number of high-profile skyscraper fires across the United Arab Emirates. The authorities have seemingly unearthed a material called ACP (aluminium composite panels) which is used in two thirds of buildings around Dubai. We will need to await the official report into these latest fires but there would seem to be some kind of flammable element to the ACP material.
Is this a health and safety issue?
When you bear in mind this is the fifth skyscraper fire in the UAE since 2012 we could be looking at a serious problem for property developers. While the ACP material has been outlawed for future developments, and historic developments using the material told to fit additional sprinklers and safety measures, not all companies have complied. It is therefore likely we will see further investigations by the UAE authorities and this will cause some concern within investment markets.
Is the skyscraper industry compromised?
The major concern across Dubai, and other areas of the UAE, is the fact that despite warnings by the authorities some companies do not appear to be taking the relevant action. So far injuries have been minimal but when you bear in mind the challenges to those stuck at the top of a skyscraper on fire surely it is only a matter of time before we see serious injuries and deaths?
It will be interesting to see how the UAE authorities react in the coming months because this constant drip feed of skyscraper fires in residential areas is beginning to cause concern. Questions will also be asked of the planning offices which have obviously given these developments the green light. Were the skyscraper plans in question studied meticulously? Were all of the materials used checked and double checked for safety?
Why the need for skyscrapers?
The simple fact is that there is an infinitive amount of space upwards as opposed to a defined amount of space on the ground. We have seen major developments in the skyscraper industry over the years and many of the previous restrictions in height have been overcome. When you bear in mind the size of some of the skyscrapers, these are phenomenal feats of modern day technology and architecture.
In years gone by we had the constant battle to build the highest building in the world, a title which continues to change hands on a regular basis, but have skyscrapers now reached their optimum height? Is it time to backtrack, think again and ensure that all aspects of safety are given due consideration?
In heavily populated areas such as Dubai the only means of accommodating everybody is to build residential skyscrapers. However, we are now looking at our fifth skyscraper fire since 2012 and there are growing concerns about safety. If, as many experts believe, these recent fires are linked to a particular material then quite simply this material should be banned at least until more is known?
Attempting to sweep these fires under the carpet in the hope they will go away is a recipe for disaster. Concern is growing, many believe safety has been compromised and the industry now needs to reconnect with property investors and the general public to regain their trust.