The Victorian Building Authority yesterday released its External Wall Cladding Audit Report, revealing some very important lessons for the building industry.
The audit, the first of its kind in Australia was prompted by the 2014 Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne's Docklands after it was discovered that combustible aluminium cladding contributed to the rapid escalation of the blaze.
Utilising its coercive powers, the VBA contacted more than 20,000 building practitioners and registered architects requesting information about the possible use of aluminium composite panels as cladding to external walls of buildings. The VBA audit covered some 170 high rise residential and public buildings constructed over the last 10 years in central Melbourne and the immediate surrounding suburbs.
Of the building permits audited, 51% were assessed as non-compliant with the fire resistant requirements of the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Despite being non-compliant, all but one building (apart from the Lacrosse building) were deemed to be safe to occupy because of the presence of other fire safety features such as automatic sprinkler systems.
The VBA audit revealed some important lessons that go to the heart of the practices that have developed in the industry:
Following the release of the Audit Report the VBA has indicated that it will now move to, amongst other things:
Consequently, all practitioners in the industry, be it architects, facade engineers, fire engineers, private and municipal building surveyors and, of course, builders will be affected by the path that the VBA is carving. Not only is the VBA intending to provide technical clarity, it is intending to monitor compliance in a 'hands on' way that is unprecedented in Australia.
We expect that the release of the VBA's technical advice is imminent. Watch this space!