Smart Building Cladding Panels: Breaking the Culture of Non-Compliance

With the fires of recent years, there has been continuously stimulated awareness on the importance of smart building cladding panels among the building and construction sector in Australia.

The devastation of last year’s Grenfell Tower fire in London has catalysed a new wave of awareness on the importance of smart building cladding panels among the global construction industry. This movement can perhaps be more felt in Australia, where the 2014 Lacrosse fire dealt more than $2 million worth of damage to a high-rise apartment building in the suburb of Docklands in Melbourne. In fact, both incidents have been found out to be caused by aluminium composite material (ACM) rooted to the same culture of non-compliance.

The Consequence of Non-Compliance

A post-incident report by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) confirmed that the Lacrosse building’s cladding was the direct cause of the “speed and intensity of the fire spread” that raced up to the 21st floor within 11 minutes. The aluminium cladding panels used did not meet combustibility requirements, thereby losing approval for external use on a high-rise structure in Australia. This type of cladding was the same used on the recent renovation of the Grenfell Tower in West London, which led to the fatal fire that claimed 71 lives and injured 70 more.

These recent tragedies have stimulated widespread attention to the issue of ensuring building products meet the requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC) in Australia. The Victorian building sector takes steps even further with the formation of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce to investigate the flammable cladding systems in buildings across the state.

The aluminium composite cladding involved in the Grenfell and Lacrosse incidents were known as “PE” panels, containing a polyethylene core. These “PE” panels were chosen for installation over the slightly more expensive “FR” panels that include fire-retardant materials in the polyethylene core. In an interim report, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce has identified up to 1,400 buildings in Victoria that are likely clad in “PE” panels or expanded polystyrene (EPS).

“There has been a culture of non-compliance throughout the building sector that has meant combustible cladding has become a widespread material used on multi-storey buildings,” said Victorian Cladding Taskforce co-chair John Thwaites. “This culture has to change.”

Choosing Smart Building Cladding Panels

The key to compliance is a careful assessment of the nature of the cladding application, and the smart building cladding panels that address the specific requirements of the project. Other than aluminium composite panels, there are several types of cladding materials which serve different purposes and functions for both residential and commercial properties. Here are some of the most popular choices:

  1. Stone Cladding — Highly recommended for rustic design styles, stone cladding uses thin layers of faux or natural stone as granite, marble, sandstone and slate. It is easy to install, basically maintenance free, and ages well with time.
  2. Wood Cladding — Wood cladding exhibits outstanding weatherability to protect buildings from harsh external elements. In addition to durability, wood cladding provides excellent insulation power.
  3. uPVC Cladding — Requiring absolutely zero upkeep, uPVC cladding is a cost-effective choice that defeats the need for painting and regular repair, along with the entailing time and cost input.

Meet industry experts and learn more about building cladding and compliance at the upcoming DesignBUILD.

About the Author: Spec-Net

This article was first published by DesignBUILD Media partner, Spec-Net. The Spec-Net Building Directory commenced in 1994 and since then their news portal has grown to attract over 10 million visitors per annum. Their audience demographics are architects, designers, engineers, contractors, building companies, building manufacturers both commercial and domestic.