EWPAA calls for action on non-conforming building product legislation in light of Grenfell fire tragedy
THE ENGINEERED Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) has joined the Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC) in urging governments across Australia to implement and enforce stronger regulations to combat non-conforming building products (NCBP).
The call follows the Grenfell Tower fire in London.
“We were deeply saddened to hear of the Grenfell Tower fire and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this heartbreaking tragedy,” said Dave Gover, CEO of the EWPAA.
The cause of the Grenfell tragedy has not yet been formally reported, but commentary strongly suggests that the type of cladding material used in recent renovations and its installation method may have contributed to the spread of the fire.
BPIC is urging Australian governments to prioritise nonconforming building product legislation and follow the lead of the Queensland Government in its recent introduction of a bill intended to control the spread of such products.
Mr Gover, a member of the BPIC board, said that the issue of nonconforming building products was real and significant to the built environment.
“Non-conforming building products represent a safety risk to occupants, to neighbours, a financial risk for owners, to insurers and financiers,” he said.
“Since the Grenfell fire tragedy, it has been reported that Australian politicians will push for investigations into cladding materials, but the NCBP issue is a much broader problem than just a particular brand of cladding or type of material.
“Building products manufacturers have been campaigning for government awareness of NCBP issues in Australia for several years and it is time for more effective regulation, and for meaningful enforcement,” Dave said.
The EWPAA is encouraged that the Queensland Government is taking steps to combat the issue through the introduction of a new bill.
“Debate on this Bill needs to be a bi-partisan effort to pass a robust and meaningful Act which will inspire other State Governments to follow Queensland’s lead,” Dave said.
“In the absence of stronger legislation on the issue, we will continue to see non-conforming building products entering the country, with the potential to cause tragedies similar to the Grenfell fire here in Australia,” he said.
The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) is a member association for manufacturers of engineered and solid timber products across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The EWPAA coordinates a market development program which includes product testing, product certification, standards and codes development, technical promotion, research and development, market maintenance; as well as education and training.
Building Ministers move on building product safety
A late June meeting of the Building Ministers’ Forum presented a critical opportunity to take action on building product safety.
“In the wake of the London fire and calls by many to undertake audits of residential apartment buildings and other high risk buildings, it was expected that the Building Ministers would discuss potential actions to ensure the safety of buildings in Australia,” said HIA
Chief Executive Industry Policy, Kristin Brookfield.
“The Minister’s decision to engage an expert to carry out a review of compliance and enforcement of building regulations may provide valuable insights into how the building approval process can be improved.
“Equally important is the decision to expedite the actions already under way by the Australian Building Codes Board on building products being used in accordance with the National Construction Code which are aimed at ensuring everyone in the building process interprets the code in the same way and that people checking information about building product conformance understand what to ask for.”
In 2015, HIA attended the Building Ministers’ Forum and called on all governments to take action. The Building Ministers investigated industry’s concerns and agreed to a number of recommended actions when they met in early 2016.
HIA has supported the proposed actions on high risk buildings being undertaken by both the Building Ministers and the Australian Building Codes Board since 2016.
“We have provided direct input to many of the changes now expected to be included in the National Construction Code in 2019. However, the actions to be taken by the states and territories do appear to be taking more time to finalise than we had hoped.
“The actions agreed to by Ministers in 2016 remain the key steps to improving building safety in Australia and they should be progressed as quickly as possible.
“The ABCB has launched a national webpage to assist people understand
more about building product safety. This webpage also allows people to report any concerns they may have to the relevant state authority. www.abcb.gov.au
“A national webpage like this is important for everyone in the building product supply chain - builders, consumers, building certifiers and companies that make building products,” said Ms Brookfield.
In 2012, HIA’s national summit, Building Products: a compliance free zone? highlighted the housing industry’s concerns that builders were effectively the first and the last line of defence in ensuring the materials used in new homes are fit for purpose.
“HIA has focused on supporting our members to improve their awareness of the problems associated with nonconforming building products. However it is important, now more than ever, to have political support to take action and ensure that builders are not the only people responsible for checking product quality.”
■ Deadly blaze in the Grenfell Tower.