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May 20, 2011

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City moves to prevent building blazes

SHANGHAI has banned the use of inflammable materials as thermal insulation on facades of buildings in the wake of last year's Jiaozhou Road inferno which claimed 58 lives, local authorities said yesterday.

The materials used for thermal insulation on building exteriors, whether newly built or renovation projects, must be incombustible, according to the Shanghai Fire Control Bureau.

Polyurethane foaming plastic, an organic material widely used as thermal insulation across the country, was blamed for the quick spread of the inferno which engulfed the high-rise residential building in a short time as the material can ignite and burn if exposed to a sufficient heat source.

When the fire broke out, the polyurethane foam liquid had just been sprayed onto the facade before being covered with concrete, and this was exposed to the heat directly.

And for buildings already using such materials, special fire control strategies are being studied, the bureau revealed.

But Guo Jianxiang, an official with the East China Architecture Design and Research Institute, said they have not yet found a suitable material for thermal insulation, especially considering the much higher costs of the incombustible materials.

In addition, the city is also planning to purchase firefighting helicopters in a bid to ensure there is no repetition of the Jiaozhou Road inferno, officials said.

A fire-alarm system has now been promoted in local neighborhoods, and an automatic water-spray fire-extinguishing system will also be set up in public areas of high-rise buildings.


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