DUBAI. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 04 AUGUST 2017. A massive fire rips through The Marina Torch tower's southern corner. (Photo: Antonie Robertson) Journalist: None. Section: National.
The Torch - one of the tallest residential towers in the world - went up in flames for a second time on August 4. Antonie Robertson / The National

Call for owners, developers to assess fire risk on older UAE buildings

Developers are hiring fire experts to assess the aluminium cladding on apartment blocks but more owners must come forward to evaluate risks and formulate strategies to ensure the safety of residents.

Regular maintenance of safety equipment, fire drills and strict enforcement of fines is key to keeping older buildings with flammable aluminium cladding safe from fires, experts said.

Authorities are currently working with experts to study if fire barriers can be added to delay the spread of a blaze in buildings with aluminium panels with a combustible thermoplastic core. But these are long-term measure and experts said other important steps can be taken in the interim.




“I don’t believe we can do it with one entity like an authority going around and looking at all the buildings. The way to do it is to ask anyone who owns the buildings to make that assessment and pool all that information,” said Andy Dean, head of facades at engineering firm WSP.

“Everybody who owns a building really ought to be thinking about assessing their level of risk because, until you know the nature and extent of the problem, how can you fix it?

“So either a homeowners’ association or an office landlord gets involved, whoever is charged with the responsibility of that building. I can’t see any good reason why anyone would wait any longer.”

A basic assessment to sketch out the extent of problems can cost a developer just Dh20,000.

“Nobody wants to be alarmist but a lot of the more responsible developers and building owners are assessing their building stock. They are looking for expert advice, some of them on a single building basis, to make that initial assessment and understand where the problems are and trying to quantify it,” Mr Dean said.

“You don’t have to spend a fortune doing it but it’s money well spent.”

There have been strong calls for enhanced safety after the second fire in as many years recently gripped Dubai Marina’s The Torch tower, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings, and the tragic Grenfell Fire in London that killed 79 people, fuelled by flammable aluminium panelling.

Cladding has also fuelled the flames in at least five major tower fires in the UAE over the past five years.

Of these, Dubai Police said that the 2012 fire in Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers was caused by a cigarette butt thrown into a waste bin containing flammable material including paper.


Read more:


Experts have estimated that between 65 to 70 per cent buildings in the UAE have some form of aluminium panels surrounding a thermoplastic core, but civil defence officials have refuted the figure, saying that a much smaller percentage of buildings had non-fire rated exterior cladding. Official data is not available.

Authorities in the UAE banned this cladding following the federal 2012 Fire and Life Safety Code but concerns remain for buildings constructed before the code.

While the cost to replace the entire cladding is prohibitive and, in many cases, not possible due to the placement and coverage of the exterior covering, occupants must be more aware of the risks.

“Yes, the cladding is flammable but we need to make sure that maintenance is being done right. It’s an interesting challenge that we have to get people to understand that it’s flammable material but it does not just spontaneously combust. It combusts because someone has ignited it. Education needs to be stressed,” said Douglas Ralph, chief executive of Snap & Inspect, a property consultancy firm and also president of the Middle East Real Estate Inspection Association.

“You do not smoke a cigarette close to an open can of gasoline. We all know better than that. The cladding is the same. We know the cladding is flammable, so why are the residents using barbecue grills or shisha charcoal on the balconies? Why are they smoking and dropping their cigarettes off the building? The building security needs to get much stronger.

“If someone uses a barbecue grill, they should be fined. We have to look at the big picture.

The cladding is the problem but it will take a long time to come up with a good plan for all the different styles of buildings and it’s going to be costly. Our big challenge is educating people so they stop having the attitude it’s okay for them to still have a shisha or barbecue on their balcony.”


Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan)
Ons Jabeur (Tunisia)
Maria Sakkari (Greece)
Barbora Krejčíková (Czech Republic)
Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil)
Jeļena Ostapenko (Latvia)
Liudmila Samsonova
Daria Kasatkina 
Veronika Kudermetova 
Caroline Garcia (France) 
Magda Linette (Poland) 
Sorana Cîrstea (Romania) 
Anastasia Potapova 
Anhelina Kalinina (Ukraine)  
Jasmine Paolini (Italy) 
Emma Navarro (USA) 
Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine)
Naomi Osaka (Japan) - wildcard
Emma Raducanu (Great Britain) - wildcard

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Plan to boost public schools

A major shake-up of government-run schools was rolled out across the country in 2017. Known as the Emirati School Model, it placed more emphasis on maths and science while also adding practical skills to the curriculum.

It was accompanied by the promise of a Dh5 billion investment, over six years, to pay for state-of-the-art infrastructure improvements.

Aspects of the school model will be extended to international private schools, the education minister has previously suggested.

Recent developments have also included the introduction of moral education - which public and private schools both must teach - along with reform of the exams system and tougher teacher licensing requirements.

Mane points for safe home colouring
  • Natural and grey hair takes colour differently than chemically treated hair
  • Taking hair from a dark to a light colour should involve a slow transition through warmer stages of colour
  • When choosing a colour (especially a lighter tone), allow for a natural lift of warmth
  • Most modern hair colours are technique-based, in that they require a confident hand and taught skills
  • If you decide to be brave and go for it, seek professional advice and use a semi-permanent colour
Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Company Profile

Name: Nadeera
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Founders: Rabih El Chaar and Reem Khattar
Sector: CleanTech
Total funding: About $1 million
Investors: Hope Ventures, Rasameel Investments and support from accelerator programmes
Number of employees: 12

While you're here
Race 3

Produced: Salman Khan Films and Tips Films
Director: Remo D’Souza
Cast: Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Bobby Deol, Daisy Shah, Saqib Salem
Rating: 2.5 stars

Expert input

If you had all the money in the world, what’s the one sneaker you would buy or create?

“There are a few shoes that have ‘grail’ status for me. But the one I have always wanted is the Nike x Patta x Parra Air Max 1 - Cherrywood. To get a pair in my size brand new is would cost me between Dh8,000 and Dh 10,000.” Jack Brett

“If I had all the money, I would approach Nike and ask them to do my own Air Force 1, that’s one of my dreams.” Yaseen Benchouche

“There’s nothing out there yet that I’d pay an insane amount for, but I’d love to create my own shoe with Tinker Hatfield and Jordan.” Joshua Cox

“I think I’d buy a defunct footwear brand; I’d like the challenge of reinterpreting a brand’s history and changing options.” Kris Balerite

 “I’d stir up a creative collaboration with designers Martin Margiela of the mixed patchwork sneakers, and Yohji Yamamoto.” Hussain Moloobhoy

“If I had all the money in the world, I’d live somewhere where I’d never have to wear shoes again.” Raj Malhotra


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

Our legal columnist

Name: Yousef Al Bahar

Advocate at Al Bahar & Associate Advocates and Legal Consultants, established in 1994

Education: Mr Al Bahar was born in 1979 and graduated in 2008 from the Judicial Institute. He took after his father, who was one of the first Emirati lawyers

The Punishment of Luxury
100% Records

Most Read
Top Videos