Stricter rules and factory checks for cladding on buildings

CT Hub in Kallang is one of 60 buildings found with improper cladding since the start of SCDF's probe last year. The checks on the aluminium composite panels commonly used to clad the exteriors of buildings came after a fatal fire in a Toh Guan Road
CT Hub in Kallang is one of 60 buildings found with improper cladding since the start of SCDF's probe last year. The checks on the aluminium composite panels commonly used to clad the exteriors of buildings came after a fatal fire in a Toh Guan Road building in May last year, which had reportedly spread via the building's cladding.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SCDF will also propose legislation against wrong use of panels to ensure fire safety

Factory checks and stricter testing requirements are among measures to be rolled out to ensure that building cladding used here meets fire safety standards.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will also propose legislation by next year to hold errant parties responsible if they cause panels to be used wrongly on building exteriors, it said yesterday.

The measures were proposed by a review panel formed in February to look into the safety of aluminium composite panels, which are commonly used to clad building exteriors.

It was set up after buildings were found to have used improper materials in checks following a fatal fire in a Toh Guan Road building in May last year, which had reportedly spread via the building's cladding.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the authorities will adopt the recommendations and introduce legislative changes by the first half of next year.

"We have standards, and the panels should all meet our standards. It's about how quickly fire can spread and we have (to use) the right panels that retard the spread of fire," he told reporters in a doorstop interview yesterday.

With the changes, it will be mandatory for manufacturers of composite panels to undergo annual factory inspections of their manufacturing processes. Inspectors will travel to the factories, including those overseas, to check on their quality control management.

Manufacturers must also permanently emboss critical fire safety information on the products, including the brand and model number, to prevent panels of varying performance from being mixed up at project sites and warehouses.

  • Key changes to rules

  • • Mandatory annual factory inspections for manufacturers of aluminium composite panels used on building exteriors.

    • Certified suppliers and manufacturers of these composite panels have to undergo an annual quality audit of their factory management systems.

    • Manufacturers must permanently emboss the panels with critical information, allowing builders to differentiate between products with different fire performance ratings.

    • Certification bodies - laboratories which test the fire performance of building materials - must specify details such as manufacturer and country of origin on the panel's certificates so that important information can be easily verified.

    • Samples of panels delivered to the construction sites must be tested as the final point of check.

    • Qualified persons, such as project consultants or engineers, have to submit compliance certificates to the authorities for building approval. These persons are also expected to supervise the testing of panels taken from the construction site, and verify how these panels are to be used.

    • Suppliers who cause the improper materials to be used in buildings will be held liable when the Fire Safety Act is amended next year.

Builders must conduct a final test of the cladding panels sent to the project site. A sample of panels will be taken from the site and tested.

"Given that project sites are the final points of check before installation, site testing provides a strong deterrence against the use of non-compliant cladding," said SCDF.

Another change is that fire safety products permitted for use here, including cladding panels, must have specific details such as country of origin on their certificates of conformity.

Such certificates will be issued only to locally registered companies, said SCDF, so that action can be taken against errant suppliers. Overseas manufacturers will not be able to supply their products to builders directly, and have to do so through a local distributor.

Mr Shanmugam said buildings still under construction will also have to comply with the new requirements, and there will be checks to ensure compliance.

The 13-member review panel headed by SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap also includes Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo, Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) president Augustine Tan and DP Architects director Mathieu Meur.

 
 
 
 

"These industry players can reflect (the cost factor of the changes) back to us, so we can make a sensible assessment," said Mr Shanmugam, adding: "But cost cannot be the primary criterion, because we are talking about safety."

Welcoming the changes, Redas' Mr Tan said developers also put a strong priority on safety, but a factor to consider is whether the stricter rules will increase construction time significantly.

To date, 60 buildings have been found with improper cladding since the start of SCDF's probe last year. Of these, 45 have already removed the cladding, and the other 15 are in the process of doing so, said SCDF.

Such removal efforts are costly, said Mr Tan Beng Leong, principal architect of TBL Architects, adding that it will be better if the improper panels were detected through stricter checks in the first place.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2018, with the headline 'Stricter rules and factory checks for cladding on buildings'. Print Edition | Subscribe