We at the Metal Construction Association (MCA) are saddened to learn of the fire on the evening of May 4, 2020, at the Abbco Tower in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Above all, we are greatly relieved to learn that there were no fatalities.
The Abbco Tower is reported to be a 48-story residential high rise built in 2005. The building’s exterior cladding assembly includes Metal Composite Material (MCM). While the cause of the fire remains unreported as of this writing, several news sources have cited the cladding as a major contributor to the fire’s spread. This appears to be an incomplete conclusion that does not tell the full story.
Minimal code performance requirements at the time of construction may be the underlying issue. Unfortunately, codes and regulations differ worldwide, and change with each new publication. Until the 2017 version of the building code took effect, the UAE did not require the exterior cladding assembly to meet the regulatory requirements that have been required in North America for almost 40 years.
By all accounts, it appears that the materials and installation methods used in the construction of Abbco Tower – as well as other recent international fire examples such as Grenfell Tower, The Address, or Zen Tower – would not be acceptable in the U.S. or to the requirements of the International Building Code (IBC). There have been no significant fires or casualties due to fire in high rise construction for any MCM assembly that has met the performance requirements of the NFPA 285 large scale fire test. This supports the MCA position that, when the correct materials are used and properly installed, MCM is reliable and safe.
MCA will work to help the international community achieve the same level of safety as we have helped implement domestically. MCA and the entire MCM industry have worked for decades to provide guidance and recommendations for the safest possible structures. MCA will continue guiding and supporting safe construction so an incident like this can be avoided in the future.