Panels Being Investigated in Deadly London Tower Fire Also Used at DFW Airport

Aluminum panels being investigated by British authorities in connection with the Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 80 people last month have also been used in buildings across the United States, including at DFW International Airport’s Terminal D.An Associated Press investigation released Thursday found that the panels, also known as cladding, are believed to have been used in buildings across the United States, including a Baltimore hotel, a Cleveland football stadium and an Alaskan High School.Technically known as Reynobond composite material with a polyethylene core, the material is used as an accent for buildings and also helps improve energy efficiency. But the panels aren’t recommended for use on high-rise buildings because of their combustibility.While the panels aren’t being blamed for the fire at the 24-story London tower, authorities are investigating whether they helped fuel its spread across the exterior of the building. The building lacked other fire-safety features including interior sprinklers and multiple escape routes.Determining which buildings in the U.S. are wrapped in the material is difficult due to inconsistent record keeping, the Associated Press said.The manufacturer of the panels, Arconic, does list DFW Airport’s Terminal D as one project where the material was used to help create a “modern, aeronautical feel.”The material was used on both the exterior and interior of the two-million square foot terminal, which opened in 2005 and sees about 30,000 passengers per day.The company’s website lists three different versions of the panels that were used, totaling a combined 810,000 square feet.“To create a structure more than twice the size of existing terminals on the same footprint as smaller buildings, architects employed vertical distribution and symmetry that required the flexibility of Reynobond building materials,” the website said. Airport spokesman Casey Norton said officials are aware that the material was used in building Terminal D and that its presence is accounted for in fire safety procedures, just like any other construction material.“DFW continually inspects all of our terminals to make sure our customers and employees are as safe as possible,” Norton said. “We make sure we have an array of safety measures in place, including sprinkler systems, fire-rated doors and walls, and ventilation controls. The panels in the terminal are part of our regular safety evaluations.”The Associated Press reported that records available with the National Fire Protection Association, which conducts fire-resistance tests on building materials to make sure they comply with building code, show that U.S.-made Arconic panels were never tested. So, the group does not consider the product to be safe for use in buildings higher than 40 feet.None of the buildings included in the Associated Press report have been declared unsafe and U.S. authorities have not initiated widespread testing following the London fire.Arconic told the Associated Press the panels are “certified for use in the [United Kingdom] and U.S.,” but declined to say how many buildings in the U.S. include the material.  Continue reading...

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