Quality and safety reforms in wake of cladding probe
A Four Corners investigation has revealed that some international manufacturers and their Australian suppliers were aware of the risks associated with using PE cladding on high-rise buildings, but they continued to import it because Australia’s lax and ambiguous building standards allowed it.
Despite more fire-resistant cladding being widely available in Europe and the USA, the cheaper PE core cladding continued to be installed on medium and high-rise buildings in Australia until 2013.
The number of affected properties is unknown but could be in the thousands, with a preliminary audit in NSW alone identifying 1,011 buildings that require investigation.
In a response to the Four Corners claims, Master Builders Australia and its 33,000 members “want the community to have faith in the safety of our built environment,” said Denita Wawn, CEO of MBA.
She said a National Taskforce established by Master Builders and comprised of experts from across Australia was progressing policy reforms that support quality and safety of our homes, workplaces, hospitals and other public buildings.
“As Master Builders has consistently said, the challenge is to make more effective the extensive and robust regulatory regime that ensures the safe use of building products.
“It’s completely understandable that fires at the Grenfell Tower in the UK and the Lacrosse building in Victoria have highlighted the importance of a regulatory system that has the confidence of both the community and the building industry,” she said.
“Master Builders has been calling for a range of reforms that applies to the whole building supply chain.
This includes the need for a centrally administered building product certification system with clear, accessible information and improved rigor and enforcement of the current regulations,” she said.
“Ensuring that everyone in the construction chain – manufacturers, designers, importers, wholesalers, regulators and builders - has access to clear, consistent and readily available (and reliable) information about building products will assist to reduce the incidence of them being used in a noncompliant way.
“This is fundamentally the responsibility of government, but requires a concerted effort from all those in the building and construction supply chain,” she said.
“Master Builders welcomes the coordinated effort being made through the Building Ministers Forum to improve regulatory settings, including its expert review of current compliance and enforcement arrangements,” she said.
“Some of the responses by government so far include draft amendments to the National Construction Code around fire safety and the online information hub established by the Australian Building Codes Board.
“Master Builders will continue to advocate for solutions that ensure public confidence in the safety and quality of our built environment which are consistent, fair and practical,” Wawn said.