Aluminium facade inspection by building certifiers.
Queensland takes new measures to prevent a downturn in the construction industry as it faces the deadly flammable cladding and building certifiers crises.
Following a state-wide audit, the Queensland Government is moving to ban the use of potentially deadly combustible cladding products in all new apartment towers and office blocks.
At the same time, the owners of existing properties must complete a cladding checklist and compliance report, with any unsafe cladding to be replaced by May 2021.
In the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed more than 70 people in London, flammable cladding was found in five Queensland government buildings, including the Princess Alexandra and Logan hospitals.
Queensland’s Housing Minister, Mick de Brenni, says that banning combustible cladding was not only a sensible precaution but will also make it easier for certifiers to secure public indemnity insurance.
“By banning combustible cladding on new constructions, it means there doesn’t need to be an expense for certifiers in the form of exclusion-free insurance,” he said.
Commentators have warned that the withdrawal of insurance cover could force thousands of certifiers out of business and possibly leave homeowners with no redress against builders for poor quality or dangerous work. “Certifiers provide a level of protection for homeowners and we need to keep them in the industry,” says the minister.
The Grenfell Tower fire disaster and this year’s Neo200 tower fire in Melbourne have prompted other states and territories to conduct their own reviews of cladding on existing high-rise buildings. Some have begun issuing orders to property owners to remove or replace polyethylene-core aluminium composite panels.
The Queensland government has urged Canberra to immediately ban the import of all aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core.
State authorities are tackling the problem in a variety of ways, but are being urged to adopt tougher national building regulations to eliminate the threat posed by combustible cladding. At the Building Ministers’ Forum in February, housing ministers agreed to an in-principle ban on such cladding in all new constructions; the National Construction Code has already been amended to prohibit its use on new buildings with a rise of three storeys or more.
The scale of the problem in Australia is daunting. In NSW, a taskforce has identified more than 400 buildings where cladding poses a “high risk”; while in Victoria 200 buildings have so far been deemed “some risk” and a further 47 assessed as “high risk”.
While state authorities grapple with problematic cladding, some property developers and owners have taken pre-emptive action to replace the cladding that they know, or suspect, falls foul of the new standards. Developers of new buildings, meanwhile, will be expected to perform due diligence when selecting building materials on future projects.
For those who are ready to act now, there are a number of Brickworks products offering an attractive alternative to polyethylene-core aluminium composite panels, such as Terraçade, a low-maintenance ceramic façade system that is both non-combustible and fire-rated. Other non-combustible building product materials include masonry blocks and bricks, both of which have excellent fire resistance properties.
Given the recent spate of evacuations from newly completed apartment buildings in Sydney, developers will be under intense pressure to perform due diligence when selecting building materials – or face the wrath of authorities and the general public.
Terraçade is a certified non-combustible material and has been used in large-scale international projects such as the Fuzhou Cultural Arts Centre in China.