Combustible cladding legislation – what does it mean for Victoria?

Mar 13, 2018 Policy & Trends

The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in London has had global ramifications. It is believed the fire was able to spread so quickly, causing 79 deaths, due to the cladding that included the dangerous plastic-filled aluminium panels.

It was an incident that caused cladding to be torn down from 11 London buildings as a precautionary measure, with further removals scheduled as well improvement upgrades in Camden, Tottenham, Newham and Plymouth. As a direct result, the company that supplied the cladding has vowed to stop global supply.

This has led to changes in the industry globally, including here in Australia, where the NSW Government has taken action to prevent a similar tragedy happening in their state.

About the NSW legislation

New laws have been proposed that will will mean that individuals and companies using banned materials to clad NSW buildings can be fined up to $1 million. Individuals will be fined up to up to $220,000 and companies up to $1 million under the watch of the Fair Trading Commissioner.

The draft amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Explanation of Intended Effect are open to public submissions until Friday, February 16 with a vote in parliament expected later in the year.

This came after the NSW government identified 1000 buildings with ‘potentially dangerous cladding’ during a 2017 audit. Over 178,000 building projects were inspected as part of the audit and 1011 were found to have dangerous cladding.

NSW minister for innovation and better regulation Matt Kean said this would make it easier to inspect and pinpoint where unsafe cladding is on high rise buildings.” The laws will also make it easier for us to fix it,” he said.

Cladding issues in Victoria

The Victorian Cladding Taskforce recently tabled a report that showed that 1400 Victorian buildings contained dangerous, combustible cladding. That report included eight hospitals, with the Royal Women’s, Casey Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and the North Wing expansion of the Royal Melbourne Hospital amongst  the buildings containing the dangerous material.

The report stated that these buildings ‘most likely’ contained aluminium composite panels (ACP) with a polyethylene (PE) core or expanded polystyrene (EPS). This interim report was commissioned after the Lacrosse building in Melbourne’s Docklands was damaged by fire in November, 2014.

The Victorian taskforce and how it plans to address these issues

As a result of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce report, The Victorian Building Authority will now audit 10 per cent of Victoria’s buildings annually, up from 2 per cent. A new state building inspector will also be appointed to deal with the issue of combustible cladding.

Of the buildings that were found to have dangerous materials, work has already commenced on replacing the material – including at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

While Victoria has no plans on the table to emulate the new NSW legislation, Victorian Cladding Taskforce chair Ted Baillieu is urging building owners to conduct their own checks. And he wants every industry involved in the design and construction of buildings in the state to ensure they are using compliant materials.

“We want to see maximum levels of compliance and more of an effort for the industry to accept responsibility and ensure everyone is safe,” he said.

DesignBUILD held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 2-4 confronts the matter of cladding compliance head on. The Speaker Series tackles the big picture issues impacting the industry with one seminar titled Product Conformity: Now a Matter of Life and Death?

This panel discussion features a big-hitting lineup of speakers from The Building Products Innovation Council, the Australian Institute of Building and Global GreenTag. Seats are limited, book now to avoid disappointment.

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