The heat is on for Australian buildings to replace unsafe cladding
Building safety is a major concern for regulators, committees and property owners. Here is a recount of the latest regulations around cladding across our different states.
When it comes to cladding regulations, the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are of one view – combustible cladding material such as Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) are banned from use. The heat is on for building owners to comply with the new regulations.
Following the tragic fires in London’s Grenfell Tower last year and Melbourne’s Lacrosse Building in 2014, there’s been a flurry of amendments to existing regulations to make buildings and properties safer across Australia.
Here’s are the latest updates for the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria:
New South Wales (NSW)
NSW has amended the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017 specifically prohibiting the use of flammable metal cladding material such as ACP if the panel core has more than 30% polyethylene. Other metal composite cladding material such as zinc, copper, etc. are also considered equally at risk.
Owners under a strata property need to compulsorily register details of their ownership and cladding material used in their building via the NSW Cladding Registration portal. All old or new buildings that are residential, commercial, industrial or under office and public use having more than two storeys are covered under this Act.
Buildings occupied after 22 October 2018 need to be registered within four months of occupation. And those occupied before this date need to be registered by 22 February next year. Any non-compliance or failure to submit reports can mean heavy fines and even imprisonment.
The Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018 (Qld) mandates the committee (on behalf of property owners) to register online and give a copy of a completed cladding checklist (part 1) for the building to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) by 29 March 2019.
Owners can choose to extend the period of complying by applying 28 days before the deadline lapses, but no one is completely exempted from doing so.
Buildings that have cladding must be professionally assessed for the level of risk by 29 May 2019. Additionally, a fire safety risk assessment must be completed by a qualified fire engineer by 3 May 2021.
For more detailed information, click here.
In its recent amendment of the Building Amendment (Registration of Building Trades and Other Matters) Bill 2018, the Victorian government also issued a ban on using ACP with polyethylene and expanded polystyrene (EPS) cores.
A recent audit by the Victorian Cladding Taskforce shows that out of a total 4700 buildings inspected, about 384 are using potentially combustible cladding and 21 need immediate cladding replacement. Owners must test for flammable cladding and replace them to ensure safety of their buildings.
The new regulations are applicable to certain types of buildings that are of mixed-use and residential type and have generally more than two stories. Building owners and their owners corporations will be notified by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) at least 48 hours ahead of a scheduled inspection and must comply with the notice. Government authorised building inspectors will assess the external and common areas of strata buildings to check for inflammable cladding and submit reports for further assessment.
Once the reports are duly analysed by a panel of fire-safety professionals and building surveyors, you will need to immediately replace any unsafe cladding that may be found.
Please take note that if your building has hazardous cladding but is too risky to be removed safely, you might be required to demolish the building. However, the upside is that the Victorian government is offering a tripartite loan to ease the process for such building owners.
What action does the committee need to take?
As a committee or body corporate you should:
- Register your buildings online within the deadline specified by your state
- Comply with the testing of the cladding materials used in your buildings
- Replace all inflammable cladding to ensure the safety of your buildings
- Provide a report if it’s mandated by your state
- Retain a copy of cladding compliance certificates
What happens if your building does not have any cladding?
If it happens that your building does not have any cladding, the responsibility rests for you to report the status of your building.
While this initial regulation and audit process is focused on “high risk” buildings, this is considered to be a similar issue to asbestos management and fire safety standards – that these requirements will be widespread and standard in future.
How is this likely to impact your insurance?
If you’ve identified any flammable cladding material being used in your building, make sure to notify your insurer and insurance broker so that the risks are evaluated, and safety recommendations are made. As a separate initiative, many insurers require an assessment as part of their renewal process.
PICA Group note: If this is requested from you, your manager can provide assessment options to avoid higher premiums or reduced coverage.
Is this optional?
No. Building owners should note that compliance is mandatory. Make sure to keep an eye on the deadlines for building registration, inspection and submit the required checklists. If your building has unsafe cladding, it needs to be removed immediately – that’s not optional. Failing to do so can mean heavy fines, and worse, fire-related damages can lead to bigger losses.
Here’s what we can do for you:
Our customers safety is always our top priority. As your strata management and body corporate partner, we will continue to monitor and communicate any developments as they happen.
Get in touch with your manager if you have any questions on the matter. You can also submit your questions here and we will help you get more clarity on the subject. To stay updated on your state regulations, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter today.