In recent years we have seen several devastating building fires across the globe, the most notable being London’s Grenfell Tower inferno. These fires were all linked to flammable aluminium external wall claddings. The complete devastation and loss of life caused by this type of cladding have seen an on-going Senate inquiry call for a total ban on flammable composite cladding products.
Aluminium Composite Panels are a type of cladding used to cover the external walls a building. Some types of Aluminium composite panels present a fire safety risk to building residents due to their combustible nature. In June 2017 the NSW Government set up a Taskforce to tackle the problem, one of the priorities of the Taskforce is to ensure that fire safety requirements for residential buildings are prioritised and addressed.
Is all wall cladding dangerous?
No, there are a variety of cladding options that are safe. The type of panelling under the microscope is the Aluminium Composite Panels that are made of two thin aluminium sheets that are bonded with a non-aluminium core. They are usually used as decorative cladding or facades on buildings.
It is the core used between the panels that can cause a problem, the core can range from a flammable polyethylene core through to a non-combustible aluminium honeycomb core. In order to adhere to the Building Code of Australia (BCA) these types of panels can only be attached to fire rated walls and demonstrate they won’t contribute to the spread of flame in a fire. The correct cladding must be used for the correct purpose and if the cladding doesn’t comply, it must be replaced.
What do property owners need to do?
All property owners need to check that the cladding on their property meets the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The NSW Government has already conducted audits on 178,000 buildings in NSW and found more than 1,000 may potentially have aluminium cladding.
What if I buy a property with non-confirming wall cladding?
Property buyers that purchase a property with non-confirming cladding will be stuck with the bill to replace the defective cladding. Depending on the amount used it could be very expensive to fix, especially on a high rise apartment building.
Property investors are warned to confirm exterior wall cladding complies with the BCA and fire safety regulations prior to purchase. Buildings containing non-compliant wall cladding are generally unusable and un-rentable until the cladding is replaced.
In order to identify potential fire hazards, Sutherland Shire council recently conducted an audit of aged care facilities and buildings greater than three-storeys high that were constructed in the last 10 years. Of the 70 audited, 15 apartment blocks were found to contain the same type of aluminium cladding as that blamed on London’s Grenfell Tower inferno. While this council audit was focused on high rise buildings and aged care facilities, it’is up to individual property owners to ensure the compliance of their buildings.
A professional pre-purchase property inspection will highlight if further testing on wall cladding is required. If you would like to organise a property inspection please click here to contact us or call Cameron on 0439 282 236.