Prescribed combustible cladding building permit

4 minute read  12.03.2018 Jeanette Barbaro

From 22 March 2018, municipal and private building surveyors must not issue a building permit for type A or B construction which includes the use of a Prescribed Combustible Product as part of an external wall (including as an attachment) unless the building permit includes a determination by the Building Appeals Board (BAB) that the use of the Prescribed Combustible Product complies with the Building Act 1993 (Vic) and regulations (including the National Construction Code, NCC).

A Prescribed Combustible Product is defined to mean:

  • a panel that comprises a polyethylene core or lamina bonded to one or more sheets of metal panels including an aluminium composite where the core or lamina is more than 30% or more polyethylene by mass; or
  • an expanded polystyrene product used in an external insulation and finish (rendered) system.

The Ministerial Guideline was issued by the Minister for Planning using his powers under section 188(1)(c) of the Building Act. Section 188(7) of that Act states that municipal and private building surveyors must have regard to the Ministerial Guideline in carrying out their functions, which includes the issuing of building permits. Failure to do so carries penalties and disciplinary action for the relevant building surveyor.

The Ministerial Guideline was accompanied by the release of a Building Product Safety Alert by the VBA here.

What is the impact of the Ministerial Guideline?

Is it a ban on the use of Prescribed Combustible Products?

No. Whilst the Ministerial Guideline does not have the effect of banning the use of certain cladding products, it is aimed at changing behaviours and driving consistent outcomes in fire risk management when it comes to using certain types of cladding products by:

  1. 1. making Prescribed Combustible Products more difficult to use freely; and
  2. 2. requiring the blessing of the BAB before a building permit is issued for building works that involve the use of Prescribed Combustible Products.

Does this impact existing buildings with cladding comprised of Prescribed Combustible Products?

No. However, if you are undertaking works on an existing building's façade that requires a building permit, including if you are rectifying a non-compliant façade, the issuing of a building permit for such works will be caught by these new requirements.

Will this change what we currently do?

Yes. A building permit for type A and B construction must not be issued by the relevant building surveyor unless it is accompanied by a BAB determination that permits the use of a Prescribed Combustible Product. This of itself mean that:

  1. the choice of façade product will need to be made before application is made for a building permit (or the relevant building permit stage);
  2. if you are thinking about using a Prescribed Combustible Product, whether in your new construction or the rectification of a non-compliant façade, whether as a deemed-to-satisfy or an alternate/performance based solution, you will need to make application to the BAB first before making application for a building permit as the permit application will need to include the BAB determination;
  3. the need to make a BAB application may involve additional time and additional cost, particularly if it is contested or the façade design is not approved by the BAB;
  4. the BAB is likely to be bombarded with similar applications so plan ahead to avoid delays to project delivery;
  5. if after the building permit is issued an alternate product is nominated, the relevant building surveyor may require an application be made to the BAB for its blessing before the nominated alternate product is approved for use if the nominated product is also a Prescribed Combustible Product, so again plan ahead; and
  6. if you are intending to use a Prescribed Combustible Product, ensure that a thorough analysis has been undertaken by the project team, including the designers and fire engineers, to demonstrate that the requirements of the NCC are achieved, as the BAB will be independently assessing whether those requirements are met.

On a practical level, the additional hurdles and the uncertainty of the outcome of a BAB process will be impediments that are likely to deter the continued use of Prescribed Combustible Products in Victoria as industry looks to other solutions that will not cause delay or extra costs. The landscape continues to change….