'The industry is falling apart': New bans push cladding crisis into the suburbs
Thousands more homeowners could now find themselves caught up in Australia’s cladding crisis, after authorities issued an alert banning the use of another nine types of cladding.
- The withdrawn cladding systems are commonly used on one and two-storey buildings
- Previously, combustible cladding issues have been largely restricted to buildings above three storeys
- The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors has issued urgent advice to builders
The alert affects an unknown number of dwellings, including single-storey family homes, which had previously been largely unaffected but are now not compliant with building codes.
Until now, most of the concern relating to non-compliant cladding was focused on flammable material used primarily on medium and high-rise buildings.
The decision, by Australia’s leading building product accreditation agency, to withdraw support for the cladding materials has left industry experts stunned and residents potentially facing massive rectification costs.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA), which regulates the state’s building sector, issued an alert on Wednesday afternoon stating that CertMark International had withdrawn nine certifications for cladding systems.
CertMark International is the agency that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) relies upon to determine whether building products are compliant.
It is not yet known why CertMark International has withdrawn the certification.
‘The industry is falling apart’
The VBA alert said the certification withdrawal meant nine types of cladding “cannot be relied upon as evidence of suitability”, meaning they would no longer be regarded as compliant with building codes.
The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors also issued urgent advice to builders.
The organisation’s vice president, Wayne Liddy, said the affected products were commonly used on small residential homes as well as high-rise apartments, meaning the impact would be felt throughout Australian cities and suburbs.
“It’s very alarming,” Mr Liddy said.
“It affects the industry as a whole. From high-rise to suburban housing.
“It’s not just aluminium composite panel, or ACP, it’s also expanded polystyrene, which is common in many buildings with fewer than three storeys.
“Many of these products thought to be compliant are no longer.
“We have buildings that we thought would be compliant using the regulatory system that we have, and now they’re not.”
Phil Dwyer, national president of the Builders Collective of Australia, said the retrospective de-certification was unprecedented.
“I’ve never seen anything as serious as this, it’s rare to have retrospective changes,” he said.
Mr Dwyer has been a builder for more than 40 years and had used one of the now-banned products in the past.
He said the industry was trying to understand how the changes would affect builders who were doing the right thing and using approved materials.
“It’s hit us between the eyes,” Mr Dwyer said.
“We’re in an incredible situation now where the industry is falling apart.”
‘A system of regulatory failure’
The national general manager of building inspection company Roscon, Sahil Bhasin, estimated the certification changes could quadruple the number of building rectification orders issued in Melbourne.
Banned cladding systems:
- CM40029 Ozone Panel Building Systems
- CM40066 Alpolic A2
- CM40067 Alpolic FR
- CM40076 Ultrabond FR
- CM40079 Vitrabond FR
- CM40082 Dulux Exsulite TM Kooltherm Façade System
- CM40093 Larson FR
- CM40138 Dulux Exsulite TM Thermal Façade non-cavity system
- CM40162 Cladex FR
“The majority of second-storey dwellings in all the outer suburbs are built from expanded polystyrene,” Mr Bhasin said.
“If you have a look at other places like Sydney’s outskirts, they would also be affected.
“Unless these products can get a certification through another certifying body quite quickly then there’ll be thousands more building orders that will be issued.”
Mr Bhasin said the changes could also cause havoc for a cladding audit in Queensland.
“Queensland has been doing audits based on the combustibility of products,” Mr Bhasin said.
“All [building] managers are required to submit a checklist online to say if they’ve got combustible products.
“What does a manager do based on this announcement? Do they still base [their response] on existing products? Or if they’ve already completed their checklist and submitted it to authorities, will they now get a reprimand and a fine?
“The penalties are quite severe in Queensland if you do not submit the appropriate information.”
The issue of combustible cladding came back into the national spotlight this month, after fire spread up the side of a Melbourne apartment building. (Supplied: MFB)
The issue of combustible cladding was thrust back into the national spotlight after fire quickly spread up the side of a Melbourne apartment building earlier this month.
Firefighters confirmed combustible cladding helped fuel the blaze, which spread from a balcony on the 22nd floor of the Neo200 building to the 27th floor.
The building had been deemed “medium risk” under the state’s cladding audit, and had been issued with two show cause notices last year due to the combustible cladding.
Up until now, issues surrounding combustible cladding have been largely restricted to residential buildings above three storeys.
That is because the potentially dangerous products have been found on medium and high-rise properties throughout Australia, even though national building codes prohibit combustible materials from being used on the walls of residential buildings taller than three storeys.
“It’s a system of regulatory failure,” Mr Liddy said.
The ABC has contacted CertMark International for comment.