A year on from the Grenfell tower tragedy, it is timely to again pause and revisit what is happening nationally and consider what small steps or great strides have been taken across Australia since our National Cladding September 2017 Alert.
Like the UK, Australian governments and regulators continue to grapple with how best to ensure such tragedies are not repeated. In the meantime, the Lacrosse building remains non-compliant. The Grenfell tower awaits demolition.
In Australia, we are starting to see real impacts on the industry fuelled largely by the response of insurers and property buyers whose increased awareness demands transparency before committing to buying property. In the background, regulators continue to investigate and take action.
In the UK, the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Report authored by Dame Judith Hackitt was released in May 2018 and voices a push towards a reconfiguration of the UK building industry. Further, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (part of the UK House of Commons) recently released its response to Dame Hackitt's Report in the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Next Steps Report which published its support for a ban on the use of combustible cladding materials. Ultimately, this second report has gone one step further than Dame Hackitt's Report which did not recommend a ban. In conjunction with these movements, a public consultation is underway which will receive submissions on how a ban may operate and within what parameters. Submissions closed on 14 August 2018. The submissions will be reviewed and the government will then release its response. Many expect that the UK outcome will guide the Australian response.
This National Cladding Alert follows on from our National Cladding September 2017 Alert setting out what action has been taken nationally and in each State and Territory and gives an insight into what may be coming. At the beginning of each section, there is an 'at a glance' summary of the highlights, followed by a more in depth description of what each jurisdiction is doing and an insight into where we may be heading.
Overview at a glance:
- Commonwealth – inquiries and public consultation continue, with the States and Territories largely tasked with formulating solutions.
- Victoria - Ministerial Guideline issued in relation to building permits for the use of Prescribed Combustible Products, the regulators powers have been increased and proposed legislation has been introduced seeking to establish a loan repayment scheme administered by municipal councils to assist building owners cover the cost of replacement cladding works.
- Queensland - the Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018 (Qld) has been introduced to implement a system of registration on private building owners to record the fire-safety of their buildings.
- New South Wales - the Fair Trading for NSW Commissioner has banned certain cladding products and the cladding taskforce has completed its assessment of over 1500 buildings with 400 more to be assessed.
- South Australia – audits continue with 77 buildings currently requiring further assessment to determine if they need remedial works.
- Western Australia – audits continue with risk assessments to be performed over 242 buildings.
- Tasmania – has strengthened its regulations to provide guidance on how cladding should be accredited, installed and used.
- Canberra – audits continue with a review group established to help guide the ACT government on whether manner of installation poses an unacceptable risk to occupants.
- UK - replacement cladding with a honeycomb structure (Vitracore G2 – largely used in Australia and overseas) has recently failed to pass a full-scale BS-8414 fire safety test in the UAE.
- New Zealand - 6 CodeMark Certificates for cladding products suspended until manufacturers can provide evidence demonstrating the fire safety of each product.