The retrofitting project has been operated smoothly despite some minor setbacks such as fire safety issues with the materials chosen for cladding.
Material for Cladding
Since a severe fire incident occurred in the UK (United Kingdom) in 2017, it was revealed that the occurrence was associated with the use of an ACP (aluminium composite panel) for the external wall cladding. The latest incident, which happened in one of the buildings located at Toh Guan incorporated with ACP, has prompted us to inquire as to whether ACP may be safe to use for our building. Although our initial ideas focused on recladding with the same ACP (Alucobond brand) that we have previously installed in our building for almost 22 years, there are concerns regarding the safety of our building occupants thus, compelling us to comply with the ACP requirements from the authority of Singapore, that is, the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force). Apparently, after the cladding fire incident happened in Toh Guan building and SCDF started to review all the fire safety regulation for cladding especially combustible material such as AMP, all the new rules and requirement for testing for ACP became stringent. For every new cladding project, the SCDF would randomly pick up the panels from batches for testing for either BS 476 or NFPA 285 as this is what never happened before the fire incident. However, the requirement for testing in quantities increased the project costing and also delayed the process of the project timeline.
During our third project meeting held on 22 February 2018, the facade contractor proposed four types of cladding brand and the material for our evaluation consideration as follows:
Alucobond Plus 4mm thick composite panel with a core.
Archicom Singapore Pte Ltd, a Composite panel with core.
Reynodual, 3mm thick composite panel without a core.
Garmco (S) Pte Ltd, a solid panel without a core.
Aluminium composite panel and solid panel have their own advantageous and disadvantageous, and most importantly the benefits of these products to the consumer such as product quality, aesthetic look, and cost saving and more importantly staying away from any fire-hazard matter. We did a summary of comparison of the advantages and disadvantages analysis for GC to compare the aluminium composite panel from Alucobond, Archicom, Reynodual or solid panel from Garmco as our new facade cladding. Below are the strengths and weakness of these two products:
Strengths for Alucobond Aluminium Composite Panel
These materials can be bent or curved.
These panels form the exterior covering of an industrial or commercial building.
Slightly cheaper than a solid panel, this panel cost about SGD200/m2, If for GC based on cladding area of 10,000m2 and total cladding cost will be approximately SGD2, 000,000. However, if added in the testing cost of NFPA 285 of SGD1, 600,000 (4 colors), the final cladding cost will be SGD3, 600,000.
PVDF (Polyvinylidene Fluoride) coating contain higher durability, high efficiency and finds its application in areas that are exposed to the outside weather like the metal framework in building facades that need to retain their colour and gloss over a significant period.
Good product references before safety issue arise.
Alucobond has been in Singapore construction industry for almost 25 years.
Strengths for Solid panel (3000 series type)
No testing is required for the solid panel (neither BS 476 nor NFPA 285).
These materials can be bent or curved.
Although the cost of the solid panel is slightly higher than the alucobond aluminium composite panel, these panels cost SGD240/m2, but there will be a great saving from the testing cost as it does not require to go for testing either BS 476 or NFPA. For instance, based on 10,000m2 for our cladding area, it will cost about 10,000m2 X SGD240/m2 thus summing up to SGD2,400,000.
PVDF (Polyvinylidene Fluoride) uses the same coating with Alucobond composite panel.
It is a lightweight material.
Good product reference, all affected brand like Alubond ACP on JTC buildings are all replaced with solid panels.
The solid panel was strongly recommended by Major Lim from SCDF during the visit to GCS on 12 February 2018.
Has shorter lead time than ACP, only take about three weeks, locally available.
Solid panel durability is the same with ACP regarding colour and panel quality.
Weaknesses for Alucobond Composite Panel
Long procurement lead time of about 8 to 10 weeks' time.
Alucobond only accepts the NFPA 285:2012 for product test and costs about SGD100K/ panel/ color but for GC based on four colors, costs about SGD400K X 4 = SGD1,600,000 and in the event, we failed the test, we have to retake.
Alucobond did not pass the local fire safety test of British Standard 476 by TUV SUD.
Longer product test lead time is taking about six weeks, delays our project schedule.
Only ACP manufacturer knows the plastic contained in the panel core, no one else knows and thus might impose a hidden risk on fire safety of the cladding installed.
Threats for Alucobond Composite Panel
These panels are made of two aluminium cover sheets that are laminated with a plastic material, and typically require a high quantity of plastic content to mix with the mineral core.
It classified as a combustible product due to the plastic material content inside these panels which might be a fire hazard.
Government authority might control ACP that contains high plastic material in the core whose use might be prohibited in Singapore due to fire safety issues.
Threats for Solid Panel
It has no threat in term of fire safety issue and panel quality.
In late 2017, three manufacturers of aluminium composite panel (ACP) companies such as Alubond, Bolliya, and Bolli-core were on the blacklist for failing local fire safety tests. Since then, SCDF has enforced and instructed building owners to remove all aluminium composite panels supplied by these three companies. Those buildings cladding that was affected by these three brands were told by SCDF to be removed immediately and replaced with solid panels. However, there has been an unclear situation as to whether the Alucobond ACP is safe to use as an external cladding because SCDF does not have a clear confirmed decision for usage of ACP up to date. In the event Alucobond falls into the fire situation like Alubond, then the possibilities of the authority removing the related panels are very high. Not only the cost of replacement of cladding is an issue, but the reputation of GC is as well as affected.
Based on the comparison between ACP and solid panel above, the use of solid panel for cladding can be seen as hazard-free as compared to ACP regarding fire safety issue because they are non-combustible material, and all these consequences involve human life and death. Concerning cost, we can have a saving of up to SGD1, 200,000 by using solid panel because they do not require any testing. Also, concerning project schedule, the lead time is three weeks as compared to ACP of 8 weeks exclusive of the testing period, and thus we can save the time of up to 6 weeks. Therefore, after carrying out the pro and con analysis of these two materials, it is highly recommended using the solid panel instead of ACP for our new building facade.
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