Many High-Rises In India Use Same Cladding Used In Gutted London Tower

Experts fear the cladding material, commonly used in high-rises,could pose a threat to buildings in cities like Mumbai where living space is expanding vertically, and call for stricter regulation.

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Many High-Rises In India Use Same Cladding Used In Gutted London Tower

Experts are calling for a stricter regulation of building construction laws in India.


New Delhi:  The inferno at a London residential building that killed 79 people last week has raised concerns for architects and builders in India. One of the main reasons identified by experts for the 24-storey Grenfell Tower going up in flames in a matter of hours was the cladding or material coating used on the structure of the building. This cladding technology, at one third the cost of a stone tile, is widely used in buildings in Indian cities too.

Reynobond PE, the type of cladding used in Grenfell Tower is widely used in office complexes in the National Capital Region. The headquarters of Delhi's municipal body, the tallest structure in the capital, corporate offices in neighbouring Gurgaon, and even in some residential complexes in Noida and Mumbai have such cladding.

But experts fear this material could pose a threat to buildings in cities like Mumbai where living space is expanding vertically, and call for stricter regulation.

"Residential buildings are more vulnerable as combustible material itself will be on higher in these places. We have kitchen, draperies, etc. And occupants, for 8-10 hours, may not even be aware of what's happening in case there is a fire accident," said Professor VK Paul from the School of Planning and Architecture. 

Reynobond PE cladding consists of two aluminium sheets sandwiching an insulation core, which is mostly made of polyethylene, more combustible than alternate cladding material like stone tiles or glass. It is available under brand names like Alucobond or Indobond in India. 

Earlier this year, the National Building Code, that issues guidelines for building constructions in the country, and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) revised building bye-laws. But despite a discussion on it, there was no regulation on building materials.

"There has to be a regulation, to only use non-combustible materials which meet certain test standards. Internationally there have been incidents of malls using such material catching fire, where the fire developed downwards, whereas flames generally go up. So with this material, fire spreads in all directions," said Prof Paul.

"While countries like UK, Dubai have come out with strong regulations. They have to meet high standards, on combustibility as well, not just of fire retardancy. The material has also been banned in the US," he said.

Builders, however, say that that because there is a better regulation in India, residential buildings here have not tumbled like a wax house in fire tragedies like Grenfell Tower and Dubai skyscraper Ajman Tower last year. 

Mohit Arora, Director of Supertech, who has used the material in his swanky new residential complex called 'North Eye' in Noida, said, "Alucobond and aluminum bonds are used in some facades to cover shafts, but not used extensively. Alucobond is not a fire prone material. Every construction of ours has to be fire rated. We look into it. These come in various categories and are rated accordingly."
 

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