A 24-storey apartment block in West London is gutted by a blaze, bringing in its wake heavy casualties.
Reports claim that fire shot up rapidly due to the cladding material used on the building. The Aluminium Composite Panels or ACPs used for cladding were said to have not conformed to fire safety standards. With a high population density in India, an inferno of this magnitude can result in a greater tragedy.
The recurring fire accidents point to the indispensability of using fire-retardant materials in high-rises. The major focus of the building fraternity should be to make a building fire casualty proof.
The existing building codes of the National Building Code of India require voluntary adherence only. For preventing fire casualty, codes pertaining to fire protection should require mandatory compliance. Also, NBC has codes only about RESISTANCE to fire but are silent on REACTION to fire, which factor in flammability, type of smoke produced (toxic, non-toxic), flaming droplets production and heat released. It does not have relevant codes for fire-testing methods either. These need to be amended. Industry experts appreciating the indispensability of FR materials strongly feel that the government should make it mandatory. Otherwise, cutting corners even at the cost of risking human lives will continue.
For ACPs to be fire-resistant, it has to contain the fire and retain structural integrity for 2 hours. The 2-hour window provides time for evacuation. FR materials produce negligible smoke taking into account that too much smoke blurs the occupants’ vision and results in choking. An FR ACP does not also produce toxic gases and flaming droplets. According to reports, in London’s Grenfell Tower the ACPs used for cladding were a cheaper, less flame resistant material, which came off the building as it turned into a blazing concrete coffin.
Aludecor’s fire-retardant ACPs, called FireWall, have 71% mineral content and are made with AA5005/AA3105 alloy. Magnesium Hydroxide (MDH) is the non-halogenated material that is mixed with polyethylene to form the core of Firewall. Aludecor is also equipped with Baby Line, a miniature version of an ACP Lamination Line, where trial production of the mineral core takes place. The mineral core produced in this Baby Line is subjected to rigorous testing. It is only after passing these that the particular batch goes for final production. The company is also equipped with in-house fire-testing lab where non-combustibility, ignitability, limiting oxygen index and smoke density are tested.