Cladding Fire Risk

 

Following on from recent fire events, combustible external cladding products (i.e. Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) are the subject of ongoing investigations. In Victoria, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce in partnership with local councils are undertaking building audits on Class 2, 3, and 9 buildings (multi-unit residential and assembly buildings) at least three storeys in height.

Under sections 102 and 106 of the Victoria Building Act 1993, a municipal building surveyor may make an emergency order, or building notice if he or she is of the opinion that the order is necessary because of a danger to life or property arising out of the condition or proposed use of a building. In determining whether non-compliant cladding poses a risk to life or property, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce have developed a calculation tool to assist Municipal Building Surveyors in evaluating the associated degree of fire risk.

Using the tool, a building may be classified into one of five risk categories from Nil to Extreme. Typically, buildings assessed as extreme risk receive a building emergency order. Buildings assessed as high risk receive a building notice. There is no current action taken to buildings that achieve a moderate, low or nil risk ranking although they may be subject to requirements in the future.

The relevant factors associated with the risk assessment include the following:

  • The building use and population
  • The presence and extent of sprinkler systems
  • Types and extent of cladding present
  • The configuration and orientation of cladding
  • Ignition sources in close proximity to combustible cladding
  • Risk of fire from adjacent buildings
  • Cladding adjacent to windows or service openings
  • The insulation type behind cladding
  • The fixing method of cladding
  • The adequacy of egress provisions
  • Factors influencing the speed of evacuation
  • The adequacy of firefighting provisions
  • The maintenance of Essential Safety Measures
  • Active brigade monitoring systems and other fire/smoke management systems

I’ve received a building notice or emergency order from the council. What do I do next?

The notice will typically require the building owner to ‘show cause’ why the cladding should not be removed. Notices such as this can be confronting and confusing. We are here to help. We will gather the relevant information and respond to the notice on your behalf. Or provide you with a report that will allow you to respond directly.

The council notice will have been issued on the basis of readily available information that was obtained in a site audit or other source. Where accurate information was not readily available to the auditor, conservative assumptions may have been made in determining the assessed risk. Where more information and testing is considered, the assessed risk is usually determined to be lower. This alone may be sufficient to have the notice addressed. We will complete this review and determination.

If the lower risk is not at a point that will have the notice addressed, building rectification works may be required. We will determine which building works will be the most cost effective solution at reducing the risk to a point that will address the notice. We will also clarify whether there are any practical opportunities to address the risk further.