Dan­ger­ous fire cladding au­dit in Ku-ring-gai apart­ment build­ings

In the wake of re­cent fire tragedies af­fect­ing apart­ment build­ings

Monthly Chronicle - - News - Jenny Bar­lass

around the world, Ku-ring-gai Coun­cil is to au­dit cladding used in unit blocks built af­ter 2005.

Dur­ing the pro­gram which started this month, of­fi­cers will seek to iden­tify res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings con­tain­ing wall cladding ma­te­ri­als that are not com­pli­ant with the Build­ing Code of Aus­tralia or as­so­ci­ated Aus­tralian Stan­dards. The au­dit will be a desk­top sur­vey fol­lowed up with site vis­its, a coun­cil spokesman said.

The fire safety in­spec­tion pro­gram will tar­get apart­ment build­ings con­structed since 2005. The wall cladding of con­cern which was only used af­ter 2005 in Aus­tralia, is made from alu­minium com­pos­ite pan­els, con­sist­ing of two alu­minium faces and a 3mm to 5mm core ma­te­rial of ei­ther poly­eth­yl­ene, min­eral based ma­te­rial or a com­bi­na­tion of both.

Pan­els with a higher pro­por­tion of min­eral based ma­te­rial are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to have bet­ter fire per­for­mance than those with a polyethe­lene core.

Mayor Jen­nifer An­der­son said the is­sue with the alu­minium com­pos­ite pan­els “pri­mar­ily re­lates to mul­ti­storey build­ings”.

"Build­ings with this type of cladding are at risk be­cause the pan­els have the ca­pac­ity to fuel the fire. They can act as a chim­ney, draw­ing the flame and ac­cel­er­at­ing the spread of fire quite dra­mat­i­cally”.

The Mayor added that res­i­dents who were con­cerned should in the first in­stance con­tact their strata man­ager to ob­tain ad­vice from a qual­i­fied fire safety en­gi­neer.

“Fire safety en­gi­neers can ar­range test­ing of the ma­te­ri­als used in the cladding. Res­i­dents of unit build­ings should also keep fire ex­its clear of ob­sta­cles and en­sure that fire ex­tin­guish­ers are work­ing cor­rectly”.

The Mayor said Coun­cil staff car­ry­ing out in­spec­tions would work with the own­ers of build­ings found to have wall cladding ma­te­ri­als that were sus­pect.

“"If needed the Coun­cil will use pow­ers un­der the En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning and As­sess­ment Act to en­sure build­ings are made fire safe", the Mayor said. The Coun­cil spokesper­son added that res­i­dents may not have to move out while re­me­di­a­tion work is car­ried out, “though it will be a mat­ter of ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the build­ing owner and res­i­dents,” and that the work would be paid for by build­ing own­ers.

Hornsby Coun­cil is not plan­ning an au­dit of its apart­ments, say­ing the cladding in ques­tion is only haz­ardous when used in build­ings above a cer­tain height.

A spokesman said: “The multi-unit build­ings in Hornsby Shire don’t use alu­minium com­pos­ite pan­els or other com­bustible cladding con­trary to the Build­ing Code of Aus­tralia. There are only a few build­ings in the Shire high enough to be at risk like the Lon­don build­ing, and they com­ply with the code”.

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