Aluminium cladding containing a flammable polyethylene (PE) core has no place on any building in Australia and should be banned outright, the Senate Committee looking into non-compliant building products in Australia said.

Releasing its interim report into the use of aluminum composite cladding, the Senate Economics References Committee into Non-Conforming Building Products called for a ‘total ban on the importation, sale and use of polyethylene (PE) core aluminum composite panels ACPs as a matter of urgency’.

In its report, the Committee acknowledged that under the National Construction Code as it stands, there are uses for this type of product in low rise buildings which comply with the Code as well as pathways which allow the use of PE core ACPs in high-rise buildings through performance solutions.

But it said this type of product was not safe on any building, and recommended a complete ban on its use on any building application in Australia.

“In light of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, the committee does not consider there to be any legitimate use of PE core ACPs on any building type,” the Committee said in its report.

“The committee believes that as there are safe non-flammable and fire-retardant alternatives available there is no place for PE core ACPs in the Australian market.

“While Australian Border Force and suppliers of ACM are currently unable to determine whether an imported building product will be used in a compliant manner, the committee believes a ban on importation should be placed on all PE core ACPs.

“In addition, the sale and use of PE core ACPs should be banned domestically.”

The Committee also recommended that:

  • A national licensing scheme with continued professional development for all building practitioners be established
  • The Building Minister’s Forum follow Queensland’s lead and consider nationally consistent measures to make all supply chain participants accountable for non-conforming products.
  • The Commonwealth Government consider making all Australian standards and codes freely available
  • The Commonwealth consider banning those who fail to design or build according to Code be banned from tendering for Commonwealth funded projects or have their licence revoked
  • State and territory governments develop a nationally consistent statutory duty of care protection for end users in the residential strata sector.

The interim report is one of three which the Committee will publish.

A further report which is expected on products containing asbestos will report on October 31 whilst the final report will be published in April next year.

The use of ACPs with a PE core in cladding was brought to public attention throughout Australia in 2014 when fire ripped up the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne’s Docklands.

In subsequent testing, the material was found to be so flammable that the CSIRO was forced to terminate a test of samples before the test had been completed for fear of damage to its equipment.

The Grenfell apartment complex in which more than 80 people died in London was also clad in this material.

Industry experts welcomed the report’s recommendations.

Sahil Bhasin, National General Manager at property services company Roscon, who provided expert advice to the Committee, expressed strong support for the ban on ACPs containing PE.

Bhasin also supported moves to make standards freely available and has called for financial penalties to be introduced for non-compliance ASAP.

Finally, Bhasin supported the recommendation regarding consumer protection in the strata sector.

“Owners and residents break down in front of me at committee meetings when I’m advising them of all the non-conformances within residential strata buildings,” Bhasin said.

“Currently there is no consumer protection for buildings constructed over 3 stories.”