Highly combustible cladding products can no longer be used on multi-storey buildings in Victoria as an order banning their use is now in effect.

Issued last month, a ministerial order from Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne banning use of two combustible cladding products in multi-storey construction came into effect on Monday.

The banned products are:

  • aluminium composite panels (ACPs) with a core of less than 93 per cent inert mineral filler (inert content) by mass in external cladding as part of a wall system; and
  • expanded polystyrene products used in an external insulation and finish (rendered) wall system.

Previously, these products were able to be used via a performance solution provided that it could be demonstrated that the fire engineering solution which was applied to the building met the performance requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC).

Under the order, however, this is no longer allowed.

Use of these products is now banned outright for any new construction of a building which is required to be either Type A or Type B construction under the fire resistance requirements under Part C1 of Volume One of the NCC.

In effect, these means that the products cannot be used:

  • On any new Class 2, 3 or 9 building (flats/apartments, hotels/motels, hospitals, community buildings and aged care buildings) of two storeys or more.
  • On any new Class 5, 6, 7 or 8 buildings (offices, retail/shopping centres, commercial car parts, storage buildings, factories, warehouses, laboratories) of three storeys or greater.

The ban will be enforced by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). Penalties of up to $400,000 will apply for significant breaches.

In his reasons for the ban, Wynn said building audits had demonstrated that performance solutions had been misused and are often difficult to verify because of inadequate documentation.

Moreover, on-site construction standards and controls do not always ensure that the building is constructed to the standard intended through the design process.

At any rate, Wynn says the flammable nature of aforementioned products means that their use in multi-storey construction presents a danger to occupants both at the time of construction and over the building lifecycle.

The latest moves follow ongoing concern about flammable cladding in multi-storey construction following the Grenfell fire in London and several high-rise apartment fires in Melbourne where use of combustible cladding contributed to the rapid spread of the fire up the building’s façade.

A state-wide audit conducted by the Victoria Building Authority has since found that combustible cladding was present on hundreds of buildings throughout the state.

The ban was recommended by Victoria’s Cladding Taskforce Chaired by former Premier and architect Ted Baillieu and former Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Professor John Thwaites.

That Taskforce had identified that the most common type of flammable cladding used on Victorian buildings involved either aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene insulating core or expanded polystyrene.

The Government also commissioned a cost benefit analysis, which found the ban will deliver a net economic benefit of approximately $1 million annually due to reduced insurance costs.

In a statement, Wynn said the ban would help to improve public safety as the government works through a $600 million program to rectify combustible cladding on existing buildings.

“This ban will ensure new developments are built to the highest standard to keep Victorians safe while we continue to rectify existing buildings through our world first cladding rectification program,” Wynn said.

“We’re continuing to act on the most up to date expert advice on cladding products and anyone caught flouting this ban will face significant penalties.

“These products are a high risk when used inappropriately or installed incorrectly – that’s why we’ve acted to ban them for new multi-storey buildings.”