Tackle flaws in testing, certifying cladding

Nobody expects every single aluminium composite panel to be set alight to be tested (SCDF fire safety testing and processes meet highest standards, by the Singapore Civil Defence Force; Dec 16).

I believe everyone can agree that a sample test is the only practical and acceptable method for a mass-produced industrial product whose inherent quality-control procedures would make those samples an accurate and repeatable representation.

The flaw that Mr Ng Jun Sen (Flawed testing and certification process; Dec 9) pointed out referred to the stripping of the aluminium skin from a composite panel to expose the core in order to test it.

The SCDF has no guidelines for how the aluminium skin can be stripped without damaging the core both in thickness and surface structure.

It is a very unscientific way to prepare a sample for testing.

Another flaw can be found in the certification process.

The same Certificate of Conformity (COC) is used by the supplier to sell the product, the architect and quantity surveyor to specify the product, the building contractor to buy and install the product, and the SCDF's officers to certify, approve and legitimise before handing over the final fire safety permits to allow the building to be occupied.

There certainly is a systemic flaw here, as everyone down the chain will ask to see and quote only that COC document.

So, if the front end (that is, the accredited agency that issues the COC) is careless or negligent, any problem will never be discovered unless a fire occurs which leads to investigations.

I hope we can look critically at ourselves and our very flawed processes that allowed dangerous cladding onto our buildings, albeit unintentionally.

Lee Seong Wee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'Tackle flaws in testing, certifying cladding'. Subscribe