By Sarah Townsend
Residents still unable to move back into their homes - four years after the fire - as they await approval from fire chiefs
Residents of the fire-ravaged Tamweel Tower in Dubai, which has now been repaired, are unable to move back in to their apartments because authorities have yet to approve the new cladding.
It emerged this week that residents are still in limbo almost four years after a blaze destroyed part of the 34-storey tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) in November 2012.
Following a three-year wait, work to repair the tower finally began last year, at a cost of $13.5 million, a well placed source told Arabian Business in December.
It was expected at the time that the work would take six months to complete and residents would be able to move back into their homes in the summer.
However, residents say they have been informed of delays in securing official approval of the repair work from Dubai Civil Defense (DCD) – required in order for the building to be deemed habitable.
In particular, residents have been informed of potential issues with the external panels used to replace the flammable cladding destroyed during the fire.
There is no suggestion that the cladding is flammable or otherwise dangerous. However, two sources close to the matter told Arabian Business that the manufacturer of the new cladding panels – understood to be a French company – is not yet registered with DCD as an approved supplier deemed compliant with UAE fire safety regulations.
For this reason, DCD has been unable to give formal sign-off to the building, it is understood.
Tamweel Tower’s insurance company, Orient Insurance, which has led the repair work including appointing contractors, said in an emailed statement that the new panels were ‘A2’ fire-rated materials, which adhere to global standards on building fire safety, and that the relevant parties were working to secure the necessary approvals.
The statement said: “Orient Insurance has sought to comply with all requirements of the authorities to ensure the repair of Tamweel Tower in a professional and proper manner.
“To this end, Orient Insurance has retained Mott Macdonald, Consulting Engineers, as project managers, Al Turath Engineering Consultants, as architects of record, and Butler Engineering as Dubai Civil Defence approved Fire and Life Safety Consultants.
“The cladding material and system installed on Tamweel Tower has a specification recommended by the involved professionals following discussion and interaction with the concerned authorities.
“The system was installed utilising A2 fire-rated materials and under the supervision of the appointed Fire and Life Safety Consultant.
“Those involved have sought the final approval of the authorities in respect of the cladding system which has not as yet been issued.
“Orient Insurance and the appointed professionals continue to endeavour to secure final approval of the installed cladding system.”
An email sent by project representatives to the Tamweel Tower Residents’ Association, seen by Arabian Business, said: “The application for DCD building approval cannot be formally submitted until such time as approval for the cladding system is received.
“Unfortunately, there would not appear to have been any positive developments, nor any indication that developments are likely in the immediate future.
“We have stressed to the consultants that they must continue to explore all potential avenues in order for this matter to be progressed at the earliest possible opportunity...
“We would stress that this problem is not unique to Tamweel Tower. Many other completed towers in Dubai are understood to be suffering similar issues.”
The government is in the process of updating the UAE fire safety code – revisions that were expected earlier this year – and it is understood that this process may have contributed to delays in securing the outstanding building approvals.
One resident said: “This is a never-ending saga. Frustration levels were pretty high three years ago [when the repair work had not yet begun]. Since then, the building has been repaired and we have had a bit more clarity, but have hit a new roadblock with the DCD.
“It is unfortunate and extremely frustrating that throughout all this time we have not been able to go back and live in our homes.”
DCD has been contacted for comment.
This is appalling. After 4 years of waiting, the tower finally seems ready for handover. Extremely unfortunate that residents are now dogged down by issues with the DCD. One would hope that the relevant consultants/contractors would have abided by the updated regulation. If that is indeed the case, then the DCD should expedite this case and treat it with some urgency.
four years of mortgage payments and rent !
another reason for me not to buy.
This is unacceptable. Can you imagine the continued financial impact these families are having to endure due to no fault of their own?? The authorities need to look in to resolving this ASAP.
We residents of the tower have been informed by our Loss Adjusters that DCD has not approved the cladding despite the glass being of A2 quality. Further, it seems DCD has not given anything in writing as to why the approval is not forthcoming. If this is indeed true, then it is very surprising why a body like DCD should not be clear in their communication about what they want and what they don't!
Tamweel tower was burnt partially and repair work done only for the area which got damaged BUT building still has 80% combustible claddings means building is not in compliance with DCD requirement as CLADDING in full must be of A2-s1,d0 reaction to fire classification in accordance to European Standard EN 13501-1, also I am sure that fixing system behind the cladding were not tested+certified. For fire-safety only tested+certified+dcd approved CLADDING SYSTEM must be fixed for entire building but not part of building like what happened now. In my opinion DCD will not approve this kind of maintenance as their requirement is very clear for people who understand technically. Don't forget there are people who understand also but they try to solve the issues with shortcuts as if DCD is sleeping. They should think about HUMAN LIFE but not business always.