An official report on the 2014 Lacrosse apartment fire as well as an ongoing compliance audit of buildings situated throughout inner-city Melbourne has prompted the Victorian Building Authority to issue an alert on the use of aluminium composite cladding.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has issued an Industry Alert on the use of combustible materials in the construction of the external walls of buildings, as part of efforts to prevent the future occurrence of events such as the Lacrosse apartment fire which took place in Melbourne’s Docklands district towards the end of 2014.

The Industry Alert focuses primarily upon aluminium composite panels (ACP’s), which a subsequent analysis of the Lacrosse apartment fire by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade has identified as playing a key role in the spread of the conflagration across multiple storeys of the building.

A recent VBA audit of buildings situated in central Melbourne has also determined that ACPs have been used by a number of buildings a manner which fails to satisfy Building Code of Australia requirements. According to its finding a total of 16 buildings across inner-city Melbourne are installed with non-compliant cladding, some of which are hotel or apartment complexes.

The Industry Alert provides a detailed outline of the specific circumstances under which various ACP’s may or may not be used as claddings for external walls, and advises that greater scrutiny be given to documentary evidence attesting to the suitability of materials, which can include reports issued by a Registered Testing Authority, a current Certificate of Conformity issued under the Australian Building Codes Board CodeMark scheme, or a current Certificate issued by a product certification body accredited by the Joint Accreditation System of Australian and New Zealand.

“If there is any doubt about a Certificate or other form of evidence of suitability, the body who issued the Certificate should be contacted for clarification,” said the Alert. If a Certificate does not provide certainty to a designer or relevant building surveyor…it is not appropriate to rely on the Certificate.”

The Alert also reminds members of industry that building designs must satisfy performance requirements in relation to the fire safety of external walls – in particular CP2 of the Building Code of Australia, as well as other performance requirements that may arise depending upon factors including material type, scope of coverage, and location on external walls, particularly in relation to exits that can affect fire brigade operations.