Fire-hit Downtown Dubai tower ready for cladding refit

Tenants welcome move to re-clad Boulevard Walk facade with latest fireproof materials

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Fire-resistant cladding will be installed at a high-rise Downtown Dubai tower, months after a major blaze tore through the 35-storey building.

Those residents forced to evacuate the Boulevard Walk complex in November received emails from master developer Emaar informing them that work was scheduled to get under way soon to replace exterior cladding across the entire building facade.

In January, Dubai Civil Defence said it faced difficulties persuading building owners to replace hazardous aluminium composite cladding with the latest fire-proof materials because of the high costs involved.

As residents, this work will give us peace of mind – I can sleep again
Peri Hellyer, resident of 8 Boulevard Walk

Residents welcome safety boost

Tenants said a notification from Emaar that all cladding would be replaced, and not just the area damaged by fire, was a huge relief.

Subramanian Krishnan, who works in banking, moved out of his apartment in Boulevard Walk three months before the fire, and now rents it out.

“It sends a good message that the cladding will be replaced across the entire building,” he said.

“We have been kept informed [by Emaar] with what work will be done.

“The new cladding is good news, and a relief.

“We had the email on January 31, and we were worried about the valuation of these properties falling, and also the rents. No one is in a panic now to sell up because of this.”

A 2017 Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice banned the use of aluminium composite panel cladding after a spate of fires in high-rise buildings.

Although new buildings must be fitted with more durable, advanced non-combustible cladding, it is not mandatory for buildings built before the new legislation was introduced.

The Boulevard Walk complex opened in 2008.

“Emaar is showing a good example and has taken the lead in refitting this cladding, hopefully other developers will follow,” Mr Krishnan said.

“Everyone has a duty to maintain safety, including residents.

“The message is loud and clear, people need to be more careful.”

Action plan in place

At Boulevard Walk, structural analysis has been completed and submitted to Dubai Municipality while the process of installing remedial work on the damaged side of the building is likely to take at least six months.

Work will then be done to replace cladding on the rest of the building, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

External cladding will be prioritised on the outside of the building where the apartments worst hit by the fire in November were located.

Residents there have been temporarily rehoused until the work is complete while their personal belongings and appliances have been stored securely.

'I can sleep again'

Peri Hellyer, another resident rescued by maintenance workers during the fire, said the new cladding would help residents sleep at night, knowing the building is safe.

“As residents, this work will give us peace of mind ― I can sleep again,” said Ms Hellyer, who lives on the 14th floor and whose apartment suffered minor damage from water sprinklers during the fire.

“I was very concerned as these are our homes.

“It is a relief to know there is a timeframe for the work and that it will be repaired to the correct standards so we don’t have to go through a fire like this again.

“Fire spread very quickly and we were all scared. We should not have a fear of fires in 2023.”

Emaar declined to comment.

Updated: February 10, 2023, 9:42 AM