Fire Dept to check old buildings for illegal cladding use, says ministry

Firemen trying to put out the fire at the EPF building at Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya February 13, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Firemen trying to put out the fire at the EPF building at Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya February 13, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 14 — The Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Ministry said the Fire and Rescue Department will conduct checks on buildings suspected of using illegal cladding materials, particularly old buildings that have undergone renovations.

Its minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said existing buildings that have done a facelift to its exterior do not need the fire department’s approval on the type of materials used, which leads to the use of unapproved materials.

He said this is what happened in the case of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) building that caught fire yesterday where the building had undergone renovation involving the installation of cladding in 2003.

“In the case of existing buildings, they would already have the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC), therefore they do no need to go through the fire department to get approval for renovations,” said Noh.

The CCC is issued by Professional Architects and Professional Engineers.

“We call for all buildings to take out the cladding if their buildings were fitted with unapproved material and replace it with the items that has been approved by the fire department,” he said at a press conference, here, today.

When asked whether the government would propose a new law for renovations to seek approval from the Fire and Rescue department, Noh said they will check with the Fire and Rescude department if there is a need for it.

“For now only new buildings are required to get approval from the fire department we will check with if they feel there is a need for it,” he said.

Noh said the material used on the EPF building was identified as a highly combustible type made of polystyrene foam called the exterior insulation and finish system.

He said the fire department will conduct spot-checks on certain buildings using the same material or other unapproved cladding types, and if found in use, he said it would be an offence.

He said the cladding materials approved by the fire department according to the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984, amongst the materials approved are clay material for finishing materials for wall, aluminium composite panel, and exterior compact high pressure laminates.

“If illegal materials were used, we urge building owners to have it taken out. If unsure of it, then you may contact the fire department to have it checked.

“This is not the first time such incident took place. According to the fire department’s records, a similar incident had happened before at the Kuala Lumpur Library, using similar material,” he said.

The library had caught fire on January 18, 2016, caused by fire sparks by from welding works.

Noh said the report on the EPF building, which suffered five per cent damage on the exterior cladding in both sides of the building from the fire, will be completed in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the department’s director-general Datuk Seri Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the construction of new buildings require the approval of consultants after the fire department have given the green light on materials used.

However, in the case of renovated buildings, the building owner is not required to engage a consultant and can directly appoint a contractor to do the refurbishment works.

“In the case of new buildings, if they are found to use illegal materials, then the consultant would be held accountable for not ensuring that right approved materials was used. They will have to take the responsibility as they are the ones to approve the CCC and monitor the works done by the contractors.

“But for renovated buildings, the consultants are not necessarily involved in the process, and therefore the contractor are the ones who determine what materials are used,” he said.

When asked whether action would be taken against the contractor in the EPF building fire, Wan Mohd Nor said investigations are ongoing and they would discuss with EPF as they appointed the contractors.

During the fire at the EPF building, a total of 527 staff in the building were safely evacuated during the incident.