More Non-compliant Cladding Uncovered in the Heart of Melbourne 10

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Thursday, February 11th, 2016
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The Victorian Building Authority’s audit of high-rise buildings throughout inner-city Melbourne has uncovered more than a dozen instances of the use of potentially combustible non-compliant cladding.

The VBA launched its External Wall Cladding Audit after an official report into the Lacrosse Apartment fire that took place in Melbourne’s Dockland district towards the end of 2014 concluded that sub-par aluminium wall cladding played an instrumental role in the conflagration.

The audit is focusing in particular on non-compliance in relation to 170 high-rise buildings in the Melbourne CBD and adjacent suburbs, all of which obtained their building permits within the past decade.

The VBA has uncovered a total of 16 buildings with non-compliant cladding during the course of the audit thus far, with seven identified in January alone.

Of the seven buildings with non-compliant cladding identified in January three are hotels or apartment complexes located in the CBD, including the 55-storey MY80 apartment complex at 410 Elizabeth Street, the Tune Hotel at 607 Swanston Street and the 26-storey Metro Park West at 557 Little Lonsdale Street.

Two buildings are located in the Dockland District – 750 Collins Street and 100 Lorimer Street, and another two are to be found on the same stretch of road in Southbank – 8 – 10 Kavanagh Stret and 1020 – 120 Kavanagh Street.

VBA Director, Technical and Regulation, Jarrod Edwards, previously said to Sourceable that the audit had found the usage of non-compliant materials in Melbourne to be “unacceptably high.”

Despite the installation of non-compliant exterior cladding the Melbourne City Council (MCC) building surveyor has deemed all of the properties identified as “safe for occupation,” with the exception of the residential complex located at 144 – 150 Clarendon Street, Southbank.

According to the VBA non-compliant buildings are not automatically considered unfit for human occupation, and can be approved as safe for usage as long as they are installed with a sufficient number of measures to shore up fire protection.

These measures include fire and smoke detectors attached to early-warning alarm systems, sheltered evacuation pathways and automatic fire sprinklers.

Other measures include internal walls and construction materials that can stymie the spread of fire and smoke within the building itself.

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10
  1. Phil Morey

    Foolish decision. When the polystyrene burns the thick, acrid toxic smoke will kill through ventilation systems and open windows. The spread of fire through the building is almost irrelevant except to maintain the structural integrity but the building will still be full of dead people

  2. Tom Smithers

    I guess this just illustrates the current weakness in our compliance system.

    It's nobody's fault but at the moment, we lack a comprehensive and organised strategy from which to deal with non-compliant products not just in the building sector but across all other sectors of the economy.

    We need to put in place a comprehensive and proactive strategy from which to deal with the problem.

  3. David Chandler

    All of this is the product of a risk adverse industry that has forgotten what we build for – 'Customers, and in the end public confidence' in the built world. Construction these days is about allocating risk to the least able party, not the one best able to manage it. Once architects were able to assure clients that their buildings were well designed , fit for purpose and compliant. These days with D&C its possible to enter into contracts with only 60 to 70% of the design completed and an unknown residual to be done by others. Our construction standards talk of minimums, and then 'deemed to comply' certifications play at the margins and depend on who is paying. Buildings are going into service without competent continuous inspection. Its a parts game, not the sum of the parts. Every one is now so risk adverse or so conditional about what they did that the final certificated given to clients are all but worthless. There is not enough room here for examples, but I have hundreds. Industry Associations are relegated to defending the lowest common denominators. The best example is 'Home Owner Warranty Insurance' just ask a few customers who have gone on that journey of remedy. The most damming example was the published comments by the MBA when the hazardous aluminium problem first arose. Now in NSW the developers have managed to convince government to set up a levy – fund to let them get out of responsibility. A drive around any capital city will evidence the 'shit' that is being built and how lousy some of this stuff looks after just a year or so in service. All the while the regulators, especially in Victoria look like a bunch of sterilised old men. We worry about imports. We should look in our own glass house first.

  4. Marcus J

    Gobsmacked that all but one building is deemed safe for occupation. I am sure the same was said about the Lacrosse Apartments. I certainly won't be staying in these buildings.

  5. Karen Silkwood

    How can a building like Lacrosse be considered 'safe'? It is clearly non-compliant and according to most knowledgeable accounts this was a gigantic near miss where significant loss of life could have occurred. Surely Australia's governance systems are better than this?

  6. Sharon Harrison

    We are told that despite the installation of non-compliant exterior cladding the Melbourne City Council (MCC) building surveyor has deemed all of the properties identified as “safe for occupation,” on the basis that measures, including fire and smoke detectors attached to early-warning alarm systems, sheltered evacuation pathways, automatic fire sprinklers, internal walls and construction materials that can stymie the spread of fire and smoke within the building itself, have been incorporated in the construction of these buildings. How can we have any confidence that other measures designed to reduce risks in the event of a fire were actually installed according to the building plans and or the Building Code? The relevant building surveyors who were responsible for issuing certificates of occupancy for the affected buildings already signed off on non-compliant cladding. Are we now expected to trust their word when they claim that appropriate fire-walls etc. were installed in these buildings? In my experience, buildings are not necessarily constructed according to plan and there is no way of checking some measures once plasterboard etc. is installed.
    I have experienced an evacuation from a city high-rise apartment building when a fire broke out and can attest to the disorganisation and lack of proper management by the building manager. I am afraid that these buildings are potential death traps.

  7. Anne Paten

    According to the VBA non-compliant buildings are not automatically considered unfit for human occupation". No surprise here! But who should occupy these buildings if not humans?

    This begs the question: "Why bother to have laws and regulations?" Of course, they are pointless.

    Non-compliance is endemic and has been for a very long time. So why don't we simply say it as it is, save everyone the trouble of any concern over non-compliance and officially void all building laws!

  8. Chirag Patel

    Importers of non compliant products must be treated as manufacturers.

  9. Mark Whitby

    Non compliant cladding (fire risk) and fire rated walls are pretty closely related.

    I would like to know the complete itinerary of what the combined building surveyor / certifier building inspector are supposed to inspect as regards fire safety.

    I was recently told that for houses and units, certifier building inspectors are only paid $100 per inspection and fire rated walls are not part of the inspection itinerary. Is this true? And does it apply to multi-storey building too?

    I have inspected about a dozen party fire-rated wall situations for individual houses and units where abutting another: and less than half of these fully complied. One of my building consultant inspections looked at a typical pair of units (just one of over 50 pairs in the development), and discovered several breaches of fire safety rules. Are these fit for occupation becaseu certifier building inspectors are not paid to inspect these during construction?

    And when is some authority going to do something about this potential disaster???

  10. Brett Hickinbotham

    There are plenty of Regulations covering unsafe products via import or supply across the Australian Regulatory system. The issue is not the Regulation it is the weak and ineffectual approach of Government and the Regulators who to date I believe have not prosecuted anyone under the design , supply or import clauses of the WHS / OHS Regulatory regime.
    To me the issue is Government at the State level competing between themselves to de-burden industry with compliance req who continually seek to