A ban on use of cladding containing the highly flammable polyethylene on buildings in Australia is unnecessary and largely misses the point in terms of addressing rampant levels of non-compliance with building codes, a leading fire safety industry supplier lobby group says.
Responding to recommendations in the Senate Inquiry into Non-Conforming Products that the use of aluminum composite cladding be banned from all buildings, Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPA Australia) chief executive officer Scott Williams said the problem of cladding products being used in a non-compliant manner extended beyond an individual product.
In a statement, Williams said the use of aluminium composite panels on high-rise buildings was already disallowed under current rules as it would not meet the requirements of the National Construction Code.
The problem, Williams said, was not that current NCC rules are not strict enough but rather that the rules are not being followed and enforced.
“The problem is wider than a single building product. It comes down to people not complying to Australia’s building codes and standards, and a PE cladding ban does not fix the problem of compliance,” Williams said.
“The use of combustible cladding on high-rise buildings is already banned under the National Construction Code (NCC); we just need people to adhere to that code. Banning the product twice is unnecessary.”
Williams says the most useful action which could be taken to reduce fire safety risk in buildings was to ensure that existing regulations were enforced effectively.
“The single most important action we can take is to ensure competent people who comply with the codes and standards are involved throughout the construction process to ensure the necessary quality and safety outcomes are achieved,” he said.
The latest comments follow the release of an interim report into the use of aluminium composite cladding by the Senate Economics Reference Committee in its Inquiry into Non-Conforming Building Products.
As part of nine recommendations, the Committee recommended a complete ban on the importation, sale or use of aluminium composite panel cladding which contained a polyethylene core.
Other recommendations of the Committee included a national licensing scheme, nationally consistent measure to make all supply chains, having the Commonwealth consider revoking the licence of those who do not build according to Code.
Despite its misgivings about the cladding issue, however, FPAA says it does support a number of the other reforms.
The organisation also supported last month’s announcement that the Building Ministers’ Forum had commissioned University of Western Sydney Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold and Maddocks law firm partner Ms Bronwyn Weir to assess broader non-compliance problems within the building sector in Australia.