Building cladding continues to be one of the most widely adopted building construction techniques used across the world today, which is why you will often see cladding on strata properties. Though it may not seem like it at times, its benefits might outweigh the risks presented by recent headline-grabbing occurrences of building fires.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know to understand the pros and cons of cladding on strata properties, including:
Building cladding is a decorative shell designed to make a wall or other structural building features appear as if they are made from different materials. Applied to either external or internal structures, cladding improves the aesthetics of a building and provides waterproofing, fire resistance and insulation. Due to their nature and composition, you’ll come across both pros and cons of cladding for strata properties as you read this article.
What it is
The use of cladding can introduce unique, aesthetically pleasing architectural features to a building. Some buildings feature bare brick walls to enhance the industrial look and feel of the property. Others use composite materials such as glass to introduce light into a space, or stone to connect a building to its natural surrounds or nearby buildings.
Cladding can also facilitate more practical building improvements, including providing a barrier from wind and rain, improving sound and thermal insulation and strengthening a building’s resistance to fire and flood.
The fire that engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower in 2017 is an example of how non-compliant building cladding on strata properties can have life-threatening consequences. The emergency was broadcast globally, sparking concerns about the compliance of cladding products used in building construction across Australia.
While the number of buildings being constructed with compliant cladding materials in Australia is on the rise, state audits reveal there are around 600 buildings with high-risk cladding in New South Wales, as well as 500 in Victoria and 237 in Queensland, that require urgent cladding replacement. Owners corporations need to be familiar with whether the cladding materials used to construct their strata property comply with state and territory legislation.
In recent years, federal and state governments have introduced a range of policies to ensure compliance with building cladding on strata properties. Overseen by the Australian Building Codes Board, the National Construction Code outlines minimum national standards that govern the safety and health, amenity, accessibility and sustainability in the design, construction, performance and liveability of new buildings.
State-based laws and regulations also apply to the safe application of building cladding on strata properties. Risk assessments for affected buildings and rectification works are already underway. Below, we explore how to ensure your building cladding complies with laws and regulations relevant to your state.
The New South Wales Government has taken a whole-of-government approach to mitigate fire safety risks associated with external combustible cladding on strata properties and other buildings alike. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings with Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2018 guides the industry in adopting safe cladding construction practices. New South Wales requires mandatory registration (via the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment) for all commercial, residential and mixed-use buildings that are two storeys and above. For buildings occupied before 22 October 2018, the deadline for registration was 22 February 2019. Buildings constructed after this date must be registered within four months of the building first being occupied. The New South Wales Government has established a Cladding Taskforce to address fire safety risks relating to combustible cladding and oversee the Government’s action plan to remove and rectify combustible cladding on strata properties as well as commercial and mixed-use buildings.
In response to heightened community concerns over the risks posed to building occupants and responding emergency personnel, the Queensland Government introduced legislative changes whereby owners must follow a compulsory checklist for cladding material. They are also required to undertake a two-stage assessment of their buildings under the Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018. The Queensland Building and Construction Commission is an excellent resource to ensure cladding compliance.
The Victorian Government has sought to rectify the amount of dangerous combustible cladding installed in many multi-storey residential and commercial buildings in Victoria. The state government passed the Cladding Safety Victoria Act (2020) in December 2020. Under this legislation, independent project managers support owners corporations to replace non-compliant cladding products from their owners corporation property. Provisions are also made for owners corporations to receive state government funding for these works.