Common building materials and their risks
Has your owners corporation reviewed your strata property building materials to improve safety and reduce risk?
As a member of the owners corporation, you are responsible for your building and managing its safety and financial risks. Because building materials directly affect your building’s safety and risks, it’s vital to ensure they meet regulatory requirements. By understanding common strata property building materials, you can improve the safety, durability and performance of your building.
In Australia, building works and material used, must meet a minimum standard outlined in the National Construction Code (NCC).
Before reviewing your building, it helps to be aware of the terminology used to describe materials that could cause defects and raise risks.
Non-conforming building materials are substandard. They might fail to meet the required standards for their intended use or be misrepresented by their label as something other than what they are.
Non-complying building materials are any type of building material used in situations where it should not be used. These situations are defined by the National Construction Code (NCC) and state regulations.
During your review, be sure to check if the building materials used in your strata property both comply and conform.
The following common building products and materials are just some of the materials that may appear on your property. As you read about each of them, you’ll learn about the basic qualities associated with these common strata property building materials and their risks.
Cladding is among the most popular strata property building materials as it can be made to appear as if it is another building material — e.g composite cladding might appear like glass, wood or stone.
After several high-profile incidents — including the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne and the Grenfell fire in London — certain types of commonly used cladding were discovered to be highly flammable, creating safety risks. To date, there are still hundreds of buildings across Australia with nonconforming and non-complying cladding that need to be rectified. Owners corporations should review any cladding used on their building when evaluating strata property building materials and their risks.
Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally-occurring mineral fibres that were used to make products like asbestos cement and loose-fill asbestos insulation. Because asbestos was highly cost-effective, easy-to-use and fire-resistant, it became an extremely common strata property building material. Today, asbestos is found in many Australian buildings built before the 1990s, especially in roof cavities, walls and ceilings, water drainage pipes, roofing shingles, gutters and carpet underlays.
After asbestos was found to be harmful to human health, it was banned entirely in Australia in 2003. Owners corporations need to know if their property contains asbestos in case it poses a health risk and needs to be removed. Get a licenced asbestos assessor to conduct an on-site test to advise if your strata property contains asbestos that needs removal.
Concrete is a pre-mixed material composed of cement (the grey powdery binding agent), water, sand and gravel.
In 2018, Sydney’s Opal Tower made headlines when residents heard a large crack and were evacuated from the building. A subsequent report found that the building had been constructed with what was deemed to be “lower strength” concrete. This incident highlights the importance of ensuring the concrete used for your building both conforms and complies with building standards.
Steel is a widely-used building material known for its strength, durability and cost benefits. It is a metal alloy made predominately from iron and blended with other metals to enhance features such as its resistance to corrosion and oxidisation.
Similar to other strata property building materials, steel products can be made with faults or used in such a way that results in building defects. Non-conforming or non-complying steel can affect the strength and stability of a building. If you are concerned about strata property building materials and their risks, a licenced building inspector can help you identify any steel-related risks in your strata property.
What it is
The use of timber in both high and low-rise buildings is increasing in Australia as engineers begin to recognise its environmental benefits. The most common timber products used today (including cross laminated timber (CLT), glue laminated timber (glulam or GLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL)) can be very effective at reducing fire risks. These strata property building materials also lend themselves to cost-effective and sustainable methods like prefabrication.
Though timber construction’s popularity is increasing and the NCC can help guide its use, non-compliant and non-conforming timber can cause safety risks. Owners corporations should ensure the correct use of timber if taking advantage of this innovative and sustainable material.
Strata property buyers beware
To reduce and manage risks associated with strata property building materials, owners corporations should be informed and involved in all stages of the construction and maintenance of their building.
It is important to increase your awareness of your strata property building materials and their risks, as well as any applicable regulatory systems, and seek advice from relevant authorities, building inspectors and your strata manager.
When it comes to managing a strata property, there are various compliance or legislative requirements that are needed to protect owners and residents. When the situation allows, you don’t want to miss out on the chance of an insurance claim. Click here to learn more about Community Health & Safety and related services to ensure your protection. You can also click here to download our FREE Community Living guide series on defects. If you would like to learn more about the services we offer, click here for a free assessment.