The US NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) Vice-President, Donald Bliss, underlines the risks to life and property of non fire-safe external façade cladding on buildings across the world. Combustible foam (usually polyurethane foam or extruded polystyrene), with a covering, provides weather protection and thermal insulation (pinfa comment: see below concerning Dubai cladding fires).
Fire standards such as NFPA 285 (Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components) defines fire testing for such components. But in many countries, there are no fire safety regulations or no enforcement to enable implementation of such standards. The result is that many existing buildings are covered in foam materials which are not fire-safe, and that as high-rise building accelerates in developing nations, the extent of risk is increasing. Donald Bliss concludes: “The stark reality is that jurisdictions without modern building codes and effective regulatory systems have a high potential to experience large-loss-of-life fires if nothing is done to address the problem.” A reader response to the NFPA article indicates that a building cladding fire in China in 2000 caused 58 deaths and injured over 70 people.
“Skin Deep. Exterior facade fires become an increasingly worrisome international problem”, D. Bliss, NFPA Journal July – August 2016