The official investigation into the Lacrosse Apartment blaze in Melbourne has led to the referral of two more building practitioners for disciplinary action over failure to perform their work in a competent and professional manner.

The incident, which took place in Melbourne’s Docklands district toward the end of 2014, saw the spread of a blaze from the sixth floor to the uppermost 21st floor of the high-rise apartment complex, prompting the evacuation of more than 500 occupants and causing damage in excess of $2 million.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s Post Incident Analysis Report for the incident concluded that non-compliant aluminium cladding installed on the building exterior contributed to the vertical spread of the blaze.

The Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) investigation into the incident had already called for industry regulators to apply punitive measures to a number of parties involved with the project’s development, referring a building surveyor to the Building Practitioners Board (BPB) as well as an architect to the Architects Registration Board of Victoria.

Just prior to winding up its official investigation, the VBA has referred two additional building practitioners to the BPB for disciplinary action – Con Nicolas, the fire safety engineer responsible for the fire engineering report concerning site building work, and registered builder Jim Moschoyiannis.

In referring the three building practitioners to the BPB, the VBA stated that they had all violated the Building Act and Regulations due to failure to perform their work in a competent manner and to a professional standard.

The VBA has used the Lacrosse Apartment fire as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the widespread of non-compliant products by the state’s building sector.

Earlier this year, the VBA issued an industry alert on the use of combustible materials in the construction of external walls, calling for greater scrutiny of the compliance credentials of building products.

The VBA also launched a compliance audit of the central Melbourne area, concluding that total of 16 buildings located around the inner city had been installed with non-compliant external cladding, including a number of hotel and apartment complexes.

  • It's good to see authorities taking strong action against bad construction practices. It's unfortunate it takes an extreme event for this to happen when other builders get away with below standard work, commonly resulting in water leaks etc, all the time and where owners corporations have to spend thousands on lawyers and surveyors to get new builds fixed. I know I've been through this very frustrating and expensive process. But the builders carry on cutting corners and using cheap materials.

  • The VBA have taken way to long to act and have demonstrate the many regulatory shortfalls. The effected consumers have been short changed & put at risk whilst they bumbled their way through the incident. It is by pure luck their were no fatalities.
    There are still many residents completely unaware of the ticking time bombs they are living in!
    We need technically skilled regulators not professional pen pushing spin doctors with no experience in our industry. It has gone on for decades when will the public & industry wake up & make a stand!

  • Why isn't this being referred to The Magistrates Court?

  • I will be very interested to see what happens here. Slap on the wrist probably. This is probably the tip of the iceberg with this and other products incorporated into buildings in other jurisdictions also. What also needs investigating is the relationship between the regulators, large construction companies and peak industry groups. In QLD the regulator is a major sponsor of a association representative of big builders. Maybe most of the problem can be found in these incestuous relationships. If we can have a royal commission into the unions [Heydon] then surely given all of the issues surrounding the behaviour of large construction companies recently revealed then surely it is time for another into the whole construction industry with a view to cleaning up our third largest industry and providing updated federal uniform laws to regulate the industry.

  • From memory the Auditor general and Metropolitan Fire Department were not overly excited about the VBA conducting the investigation. They appear to be more part of the problem than the answer. I saw mention that this flammable and non conforming cladding was used on the new women's hospital also. There are problems with fire doors, glass windows and structural steel etc. To allow construction companies to be able to appoint certifiers is flawed just like allowing company directors to appoint liquidators when they wish to phoenix out of the industry taking all of the subcontractors and suppliers money with them. In reality our legislators have no interest in fixing the problems this country faces. Somebody really needs to pay for this mess and then go to jail. I agree , that nobody has been seriously injured or killed is due to the good work of the fire departments and good luck. It is time for somebody to go to jail but instead they will come up with some reason to blame everybody else.

  • The regulators need to show foresight, initiative and good governance to solve this issue instead of hanging individuals out to dry. Why are the regulators only targeting individuals for an industry wide problem? The compliance audit within the Melbourne CBD shows that this is not an isolated incident and is an Australian wide problem. If the VBA feel that the practitioners actions warrant referral to the BPB then I firmly believe that they should be referring ALL practitioners to answer the same questions as 99% of the industry is doing the same thing. The practice of relying on individual practitioners to solve an Australian / industry wide problem needs to stop.

  • Let's not be fooled. Do not too excited!

    How long to get to this point? Only public pressure, and many, many months after what could have been a tragic event has the VBA been pushed to this point. This being but step 1.

    What about all the next steps to get to the putative punitive measures? Any Inquiry likely to be light years away – delayed by the lawyers for years – and the cases may be manage to 'disappear'! And if they go ahead, by the time thishappens we will have all given up on hearing the outcomes. If by chance a reprimand, of what value? None! And if a fine, will it ever be paid? Unlikely because an invoice has to be sent (this does not always happen) and if invoiced it may never be paid!

    Of what use is such a paltry 'penalty' given the serious consequences of all the breaches? Consider there could well have been hundreds of people impacted, with severe injuries and many deaths! If a suspension, will it be ignored with the persons continuing to work? Yes, this is the norm and VBA approved! As for 'cancellation', this is so rare and only for a term – and as the VBA and BPB say repeatedly, a building licence is forever; in the words of one well known BPB Chair, "you can only lose it if you die!"

    Most important, any penalty applied will be appealed at VCAT, and if recent cases are a guide, the 'penalty' will be reduced, or completely overturned! Incredible, but true!

    In the end, there may be no case ever heard. If it goes anywhere, a little or no penalty will result, then appealed and made to 'disappear'! No punishment – and no measure of deterrence. This is the VBA way!

    It's a joke. But it's not funny. This is people's lives – not considered of any value compared to 'business' and 'growth'. Why?

  • John, the 'scheme' was designed so that no cases could ever be heard in a court. By no means accidental! All was strategized to be seamlessly 'stitched up' and now so embedded that all participants can operate with their eyes closed!

    In courts, 'rules of evidence' apply. Thus, no such forum – independence, natural justice, honesty, fairness, witnesses not listening in before giving their testimony, truthful transcripts, etc. BUT not so in-house, where the Building Protection Board and now the new VBA (PROTECT the 'UNTOUCHABLES) WAY will ensure that most cases ultimately go nowhere – years in the making and generally appealed and overturned. The process is the problem, who is in charge and who is excluded – all consumers!

    We have a 'system' whereby those who sit in to decide on these 'hearings' are those who are meant to be regulated. Yes, the regulatees are the regulators! It's hard to get your head around. More especially if you are a normal, law-abiding person. An ethical, trusting person. A person with a moral compass, who thinks governments are trustworthy, and their actions accountable and transparent. But such a person may not yet realize that they are a rarity – particularly among those who have grabbed power. The premise for such idealistic thinking would be described as Utopian and assume that we live in a democracy – both ideals disappointingly dinosaur-like. I only wish that we could 'fix' the legal system and have a justice system. Like you John, I believe that this is our right. But you and I have no voice. And you and I do not count. Only our cash counts – and for one purpose, solely to serve to make business ever bigger, with this 'arranged' through the accommodating bureaucratic partner. Les 'get's it!

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