In recent years, the world has been shocked by disastrous high-rise fires such as the Grenfell Tower fire, the Dubai Torch Tower fire and the 2014 Docklands Tower fire.
The culprit in all these devastating fires: Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) cladding with a highly combustible polyethylene core, which accelerates the spread of flames across the outside of a building. While this cladding is noncompliant with the requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), some overseas manufacturers and suppliers have given misleading information about the compliance of their products, and flammable cladding is still in use across the country.
To prevent another disastrous fire in Australia, federal and state governments have been taking steps to identify and rectify high-risk buildings, and issuing stricter building legislations.
Find out below what regulations are in place for your state, and what is being done to ensure buildings are safe.
New South Wales
The NSW Government Cladding Taskforce identified 435 high risk buildings in a state-wide audit. Residents concerned they might be living in a high-risk building should contact their local council, their owners’ corporation or a fire safety professional for an assessment.
Since 15 August 2018, the NSW Government has banned the use of ACPs with a core of more than 30% polyethylene on Type A or B buildings with more than two storeys. Heavy penalties apply for noncompliance. Read more about the ban here.
The exception to this ban is if your polyethylene ACP cladding passes testing for AS1530.1 or AS 5113 conducted after 1 July 2017 by an Accredited Testing Laboratory. Click here to read more about Australian Standards testing.
In August 2018, the Queensland Government imposed stricter regulations on combustible cladding. As of 1 October 2018, anyone responsible for the design or manufacture of a building or the supply or importation of building materials must ensure products used conform to the BCA.
Building owners are required to prove their residential buildings contain only non-combustible cladding, or engage a fire engineer to perform a risk assessment. Buildings containing combustible ACPs must display a prominent notice on the outside, and every resident must receive a copy. Building owners must also follow a 3-step process with the QBCC, to ensure compliance of their buildings, involving a checklist, an assessment by a building industry professional, and a risk assessment by a fire engineer. Details must be submitted by March 2019 and all requirements must be satisfied by May 2021. Read more about Queensland's 3-step process for compliance here.
While the Victorian government has not added new legislations, it is encouraging building owners to conduct their own safety checks. Building surveyors are warned not to assume ACPs are safe unless they are proven to have passed AS 5113 or AS 1530.1. Product safety alerts have been issued to building practitioners, and the government will work with builders to ensure they fully understand national building codes. Read more here.
The newly-christened Victorian Cladding Taskforce, who recently conducted a state-wide audit, will audit 10% per cent of Victoria’s buildings every year and impose harsher penalties on building practitioners in noncompliance with the BCA, including revoking building permits. Find the Taskforce’s initial report here.
Since July 2017, the Western Australia Building Commission has been conducting an ongoing audit, publishing fortnightly updates on their website (find updates here).
The WA Building Commission published a Fire Safety in Existing Apartment Buildings fact sheet online, including advice on maintenance, evacuation plans and fire safety refurbishment (read more here). In future the Building Commission will impose harsher conditions on builders using noncompliant materials, including fines and conditions on registration or deregistration.
Tasmania’s Minister for Building and Construction called a state-wide audit, prioritising residential buildings. All builders in Tasmania are required to complete a survey, nominating buildings they believe contain ACPs (see more on the audit here) The use of ACPs with a polyethylene core has been restricted, and the Director of Building Control aims to have all noncompliant cladding replaced.
The Tasmanian Government has introduced minimum design documentation requirements for new residential buildings, and plans to introduce similar requirements for all buildings in future. Builders must not install products that do not meet minimum safety requirements (see technical requirements and criteria for noncompliance here).
South Australia is undergoing an ACP audit led by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and the Metropolitan and Country Fire Services. This audit prioritises residential buildings, hotels and motels, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The audit will be conducted in three phases : Identification (completed early 2018), Investigation (currently underway) and Respond (commencing soon). Read more about the audit here.
The NT government is currently writing to building developers whose buildings may be at risk, urging them to take action. It is also working with the Commonwealth to come up with appropriate strategies to reduce the risks posed by noncompliant ACP cladding and building materials, and has provided an email address for people to report buildings they believe do not comply with national safety standards. See more on noncompliant products in the NT here.
The ACT government is currently carrying out an audit on ACT buildings, and aims to post updates on their its website in future (read more here). The Building Cladding Review Group has been established to determine fire safety risks in buildings with ACP cladding, and anyone with information on buildings potentially at risk should contact them.
Click here to download a copy of our whitepaper for more information on the risks of ACP cladding, and for non-combustible, 100% aluminium alternatives.