The fire that raced up the Lacrosse building in November 2014 fuelled by the combustible polyethylene composite external panelling appears no closer to a resolution after four years.
A VCAT hearing on 25 October 2017 was unable to determine who is responsible for the installation of the panels on the Lacrosse building with the owner’s corporation pursuing the builder (L U Simon), and the only agreement reached was a 30-day trial starting on 1 September 2018.
By this date it will be some five years later, and the outcome of this trial will not determine any resolution for the owners of the Lacrosse apartments as the legal battle will most certainly continue to higher courts.
Assistant Minister for Industry Craig Laundy suggests a total ban on composite is not on as the product is legal in some instances, such as its use as sign-writing panels. Laundy further states that it is illegal to use the composite panels on high-rise buildings now – that makes it a state government issue of non-compliance, and they should enforce the regulations.
Well that hasn’t worked very well has it?
It appears the performance based system (PBS) may have been used in many cases. The PBS is a system whereby an architect, builder or developer can suggest a certain product is fit for purpose, and if they can obtain a sign off on for that product it can be used.
It would also appear Laundy is out of his depth in regard to this matter, and is ill advised as his stated position is in conflict with the Senate and many other industry players.
Why would we not ban a product at the border if it poses a risk to life, which this product does if placed on high-rise structures? We have seen this in London when the Grenfell Tower burnt with the loss of some 80 lives.
Queensland has already taken steps to completely ban the product, and Tasmania is following, whereas Victoria and NSW appear to be still at the starting blocks.
There is already an equivalent product available, and many more will follow.
The Victorian Building Authority’s efforts after the Lacrosse fire have been more than disappointing considering they are the regulator and should show leadership. Instead, they have stumbled from one public relations disaster to another.
New South Wales have changed the statuary warranties and they are now time-limited. For instance, legal proceedings to enforce statuary warranties must be commenced within two years for all defects, and six years for major defects.
There is no doubt the management of the building industry at both the state and federal levels leave a lot to be desired as the grassroots of industry are being ignored in favour of trade associations who continue to maintain their income streams through mandatory legislation.
It is surprising that the two long-term industry trade associations (HIA and MBA) have been very silent on the major issues, particularly in Victoria, considering their magnitude and impact on the industries credibility and confidence.
On the Federal level, the Building Ministers Forum on 30 June 2017 agreed to commission an expert to examine the broader compliance and enforcement problems within the building and construction systems. Examples of such problems include education, licensing, design, quality assurance, competencies of practitioners, and importation, and such issues affect the implementation of the NCC. Professor Peter Shergold AC and Bronwyn Weir have been appointed as the independent experts to conduct this assessment.
The Forum invites interested parties to provide a brief written submission to the assessment to BMF_Assessment@industry.gov.au by 15 December 2017.
The Department is managing the submission process and these are the terms of reference
The cladding matter is a major issue for our industry but it appears not all agree with the urgency as properties languish with the subject cladding intact. We can only hope that events such as the Larcrosse fire of 2014 are not repeated.