Buildings with glass façades may look swank and sophisticated, but they are far more vulnerable to fire, warn firefighters and experts, as fire broke out in a 13-storey commercial building on Friday.
Firefighters, who were a part of the team that fought the blaze, said the yet-to-be-occupied First International Financial Centre’s glass façade hampered operations. Officials said the spread of the fire from the 12th floor to the 11th and 13th floors was partly because of the glass façade. In fact, firefighters had to break the glass to improve ventilation and contain the fire.
Chief fire officer Suhas Joshi said: “These glass façades are very harmful because they don’t allow any sort of ventilation inside the structure.
Our firefighters felt tremendous heat when they entered the building. Had there not been a glass façade, it would have been a lot easier to contain the fire.”
In recent years, Mumbai has seen scores of commercial glass façade buildings come up. Often these buildings are also high-rises, and experts feel that the two features - glass façade and skyscrapers – make rescue operations very challenging during emergencies.
Architect and urban planner Pankaj Joshi said clients are increasingly opting for glass façades, at times even despite advice. “Many clients believe that having a glass façade gives the structure an international image. These buildings also fetch high rents compared to ordinary buildings,” he said. “These buildings absorb more heat because there is no ventilation and consume more energy compared to ordinary buildings. In case of a fire, the heat helps the fire spread.”
The chief fire officer said there is little the fire department can do to regulate the construction of glass façade buildings. “These things cannot be dictated by law. Architects and developers need to understand the harmful effects of having glass façades in each and every building they build.”