When the 63-story Address Downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates went up in flames on Dec. 31, many in the U.S. were pressed to ask: Could it happen here? Not likely, explains journalist Ian Volner for New York Magazine. Aluminum-composite panels (ACPs), which clad the tower, are increasingly common in tall-building construction and typically comprise a plastic core sheathed with a thin layer of aluminum. Initial reports of the Dubai blaze suggest that the plastic portion of the panels burned during the fire, indicating that they weren’t entirely fire-proof; the reports also say that the rubber and silicone gaskets holding the panels in place could be partly to blame. Regardless, the latest revamp of the U.S. fire code for buildings, Volner writes, occurred in 2001 and wouldn’t have allowed non-fire-resistant ACPs, instead requiring specifiers to select fire-resistant versions of the panels often with cores made of plastic that emit water vapor at high temperatures to cut the spread of a fire. Many buildings constructed before 2012 in the United Arab Emirates, however, are found to use ACPs that aren’t fire resistant. While cities like New York are buzzing with the construction of new tall buildings in a highly regulated environment, the growth doesn’t match the pace or scale of that occurring over the course of the last handful of years in Dubai, where speed of construction can make it difficult for regulations and oversight to catch up.

Read the full story at New York Magazine.

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