Ministers Take Action after Cladding Fire

Compulsory sprinklers on covered balconies and a list of approved high-risk building products may be introduced following a devastating fire in Melbourne’s Docklands. The Building Ministers’ Forum met last Friday to consider the implications of the Lacrosse apartments blaze in November, which was started by a discarded cigarette on an eighth-floor balcony. It spread rapidly due to the use of a flammable building cladding, Alucobest, which was imported from China and not tested to Australian standards.

The forum has established a working group of senior officers to report on strategies to minimise risks to consumers, businesses and the community. Ministers have agreed that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) will consider amendments to the National Construction Code to require sprinkler protection on covered balconies of multi-storey buildings. The ABCB will also investigate a mandatory listing scheme for high-risk building products with safety implications.

Fire Protection Association Australia has welcomed the measures. CEO Scott Williams told insuranceNEWS.com.au he has been advocating the mandatory listing scheme for “a long, long time”. “The future establishment of a national register of ‘fit-for-purpose’ products which are high risk will restore confidence and certainty to the building industry and the community,” he said. “It is a great outcome and just what the industry needs. However, our concern is how products get onto the list. If they are not properly tested or assessed, then the problem will remain. “The products that get listed must be fit for purpose.”

The working group will report within six months. Authorities in Victoria and WA are already carrying out audits of high-rise buildings to identify any non-compliant use of flammable cladding, and a Senate inquiry is investigating the impact of non-conforming building products.

This article first appeared in
insurancenews.com.au on 3 August 2015