The Importance of Building Code Compliance in Australia

The upcoming DesignBUILD provides valuable insight on the importance of building code compliance in Australia. After the fatal Grenfell Tower fire last year, the global construction industry has gone and continues to go great lengths to prevent the usage of non conforming and non compliant building materials and practices.

DesignBUILD helps raise the banner in Australia as industry professionals, specifiers and students all come together under one roof as one community.

Looking Back on the Grenfell Tower Fire

On June 14, 2017, a fire broke out at the 24 storey Grenfell Tower block of public housing flats in the North Kensington area of West London. It burned for about 60 hours until finally being extinguished, whereupon it had already resulted in the loss of 71 lives and more than 70 injuries.

Police and fire services believe the fire started by accident in a fridge-freezer on the fourth floor. Perhaps a more significant cause for concern is the rapid growth of the fire, attributed to the use of non compliant exterior building cladding panels, namely aluminium composite material (ACM).

The ACM cladding used in the Grenfell Tower were specifically known as “PE” panels with a polyethylene core, which is highly flammable. “FR” panels consisting of fire retardant materials in the polyethylene core are available on the market, albeit at a slightly higher price. Given the tragic outcome of the Grenfell Tower fire, however, it may not be too compromising of a cost.

Building Code Compliance in Australia

The same non compliant exterior building cladding panels were found out to be the cause of the 2014 Lacrosse tower fire, which burned through a high-rise apartment building in the suburb of Docklands in Melbourne. In fact, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) dubbed it “a near miss” as it could have easily led to the same number of fatalities as the Grenfell Tower fire. Since the Lacrosse building was fitted with internal sprinklers, unlike Grenfell, the firefighters were able to alert and evacuate the 400 residents in the apartment complex despite the scale of the blaze. The only alarming statistics were the $2 million worth of damage, which could have been mitigated and even prevented if compliant exterior building cladding panels were used.

According to a leading Australian fire safety engineer, the task of removing flammable aluminium cladding from high-rise buildings is comparable to ridding the country of asbestos — it could affect tens of thousands of buildings. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce underlines the notion with an interim report, stating that “PE” panels of expanded polystyrene (EPS) are likely used in up to 1,400 buildings in Victoria alone.

DesignBUILD aims to promote the importance of building code compliance in Australia, which is one of the many topics tackled as part of the highly anticipated 2018 Speaker Series. Find out more and book here >