A new law to ban the use of the most dangerous types of combustible cladding will soon come into effect in Victoria, following extensive investigation of the use of these materials in building. The ban will begin as of 1st February 2021, and builders who ignore the new rules can face disciplinary action from the Victorian Building Authority.
The ban is partly in response to the tragic events in London in 2017, when the Grenfell Tower fire killed 71 people. The fire in the 24-storey public housing building was found to be exacerbated by the flammable aluminium cladding of the building. Additionally, a fire at the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne’s Docklands in 2014 was worsened by the aluminium panels used in its cladding, which allowed the fire to quickly spread between levels.
Taskforce investigations found non-compliant use of cladding
In 2017, the Victorian government announced a taskforce which would be responsible for investigating the use of cladding in the state. The taskforce was jointly chaired by former Victorian premier Ted Baillieu, who trained and practised as an architect, and former deputy premier and planning minister John Thwaites.
An interim report published by the taskforce, in November 2017, found that there was extensive use of non-compliant materials on Victorian buildings. This followed an earlier audit of buildings in Victoria in 2014, during which the Victorian Building Authority assessed 220 buildings with 51% of these found to be non-compliant.
Impacted types of cladding
The new laws prohibit the use of certain external wall cladding products, namely aluminium composite panels (ACPs) with a core of less than 93% inert materials filler, and expanded polystyrene (EPS) products used in an external insulation and rendered wall system. The ban will apply to work in connection with buildings of Type A or Type B Construction under section 192B(1) of the Building Act 1993. These types of buildings, when clad in these materials, have been found to present a high risk to occupant safety. Prohibiting the use of the products will reduce the risk of fire spreading in multi-storey buildings, and reduce the risk to building occupants, neighbouring properties, and the public generally.
The law does not impact Class 1 and 10 buildings, such as a detached dwelling, garage or shed. It also does not apply to buildings of Type C Construction, as defined under Part C1 of the Building Act.
The newly banned types of cladding have now joined the highly flammable polyethylene cladding as being prohibited for use in Victorian building. The polyethylene cladding was banned in towers above two levels in December 2017, after a separate taskforce deemed it a major risk to safety. At the time, multiple buildings, including the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, needed to have their cladding immediately replaced.
Need to use reputable building companies
The new law highlights the need to use only respected and reputable building companies when deciding to build your own home. While these laws impact large scale multi-storey buildings, the materials used in the creation of your home need to comply with the highest levels of safety to reduce the risks to you and your family.