When hotels are functioning as intended, they are there providing comfortable facilities to their guests so that they can lay back and enjoy the accommodation and amenities. A building’s safety is something not often thought about by guests, but under certain circumstances could mean the difference between life and death. Some buildings are more prone to disasters than others - the most common concern are fire hazards.

Recently, a fire broke out in a London luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental, leaving both the guests and the pedestrians shocked and terrified. The massive blaze emerged a week after the hotel’s multimillion-dollar renovation that was supposed to be ‘designed to confirm this historic hotel’s position as one of the best in the world’. It is believed that the fire was caused as a by-product of arc welding landing on the planting façade, the blaze then spreading right across the hotel. Back in 2017, another fire incident took place at the Grenfell Tower in the UK and unfortunately, unlike the Mandarin Oriental blaze where nobody was injured, the Grenfell Tower fire resulted many casualties. The flames began in the kitchen on the fourth floor and then sprawled throughout the level via the windows. Soon after, embers cascaded down from the kitchen windows which caused the fire to spread rapidly upward and around the entire building. Other hotel and residence fires include the Regent Plaza hotel fire in Karachi Pakistan, Dubai’s Torch Tower fire, and the Leogrand Hotel & Casino Batumi blaze in the Black Sea, Georgia.

The commonality between all of those incidents was the fact that the exteriors of the buildings helped spread the fire. So, the question is, what makes a façade more hazardous than another?

When building a hotel, a fancy looking exterior is not all you need to think about when designing it. Other factors that need to be taken into consideration include practicality and most importantly, safety. Hotels such as the Hyatt Regency Cambodia and Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard Hotel are turning to façade consulting firm Meinhardt for professional assistance in both designing and constructing a sound exterior. This will not only put the guests’ minds at ease, but also potentially prevent any unforeseen financial blowups.

Sadly, many hotels still overlook their building’s façade, especially those in countries with poor regulations. They perhaps don’t realise that the decision to use easy or inexpensive construction materials could lead to potential disasters - even building collapse. One example would be the popular use of claddings, whether for the purpose of thermal insulation, or just the ‘aesthetics’ that they bring.

Investigations determined that the use of inferior materials was one of the root causes for the Grenfell Tower disaster. Fire-resistance cladding plan with honeycomb core was rejected because it was deemed too pricey, instead temperature-sensitive insulating foam made of polyisocyanurate was used in the cheaper cladding. Once set on fire, the foam sucked air under the cladding, creating air currents which helped spread the fire upward to the top of the tower. Other components, such as combustible materials used in the tower’s windows, also contributed to the spread.

There are numerous factors that ought to be taken into consideration when constructing a building, and façade safety should be the top priority. Hotels need to become more aware of the possible risks of fire so that these kinds of tragedies will not be repeated.