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How to choose a non-combustible cladding product

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The tragic London Grenfell tower fire has opened old wounds from the Melbourne Lacrosse fire in 2014, and reawakened the architectural industry to the dangers of using non-combustible materials. If you have seen footage of the incident you would have felt a chill as the large flames engulfed the 120-apartment building while people were trapped inside.

Despite a flurry of discussion after the Lacrosse fire, little has changed to prevent a repeat incident. It is estimated that 2700 buildings in Sydney use the same type of cladding as that of the Lacrosse fire, and half of those built in Melbourne in the past decade are non-compliant. Experts are likening the problem of replacing flammable aluminium cladding to the asbestos issue, with cost estimations coming in at the billions.

If you are designing, building or renovating, how do you know which cladding is safe to use? There are many different types of aluminium cladding with varying levels of combustibility. 

It is believed that the type of cladding used in both fires was aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core, which are often used for thermal regulation but are highly flammable. Aluminium itself is a non-combustible material, but the core make-up can determine the level of flammability.

There are two types of fire-retardant cladding: inherent and treated. Cladding products that are inherently fire-retardant will be non-combustible for the life of the product, whereas treated fire-retardant cladding will only be non-combustible for the life of the treatment. Non-flammable timber cladding is usually treated as it is not inherently fire-retardant.

The safest course of action is to choose a cladding product that has been tested to AS1531.3. This test determines ignitability, heat and smoke release, and ensures that the spread of fire will be minimised.

Rest assured that both DecoClad and DecoBatten are non-combustible and have been independently tested to Australian Standard 1531.3. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns on this matter.

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