Uni accommodation on list of buildings with potentially combustible cladding


July 24, 2019 12:43:15

A leaked list of Tasmanian buildings potentially containing combustible aluminium cladding includes University of Tasmania accommodation, the new Parliament Square Building, hospitals and a number of schools.

Key points

  • 42 of the 43 Tasmanian buildings investigated could be classified as low-risk, and did not pose any additional fire risk
  • Architect says panels with less than 30 per cent plastic are considered safe, but panels with more plastic could combust
  • The Tasmanian list does not specify what percentage of plastic is contained in the cladding of the buildings investigated

The list obtained by the ABC reveals the Tasmanian buildings that were investigated as part of a Federal Government-ordered audit of buildings containing aluminium composite panels.

The audit was in response to the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze in London, and a previous fire at the Lacrosse Building in Victoria, where the flammable cladding was used.

Buildings that were referred to Tasmanian auditors for investigation of aluminium composite panels were initially divided into different risk categories — high, medium to high, medium and low — depending on the class of the building, its height, or at the discretion of the director of building control.

The University of Tasmania’s 15-storey accommodation building on the corner of Elizabeth and Melville streets in Hobart was included in the list as a high-risk structure, as well as the unfinished Hedberg building.

The list includes the North West Regional Hospital as a medium-to-high-risk structure, as well as Guilford Young College.

Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Parliament Square, part of the Royal Hobart Hospital, and Mowbray and Glen Dhu primary schools were all included as medium-risk structures.

Ultimately, all but one of the buildings on the list were determined to be low risk, with auditors determining they do not pose any additional risk to fire safety.

Just the Launceston General Hospital needed its cladding removed and replaced.

The audit, released without the list early last year, assessed buildings initially classified as medium-to-high-risk by considering the use of the building, the extent and type of panels used, the proximity to ignition sources, the likelihood of vertical spread of fire, and compliance with the Building Code of Australia.

University of New South Wales adjunct architecture lecturer Geoff Hanmer said buildings with the aluminium composite panels below four storeys high were low-risk, with other combustible materials including timber also allowed at that height.

But he said the story was different for higher buildings.

“The cladding, if it is combustible cladding … then we do need to remove it and replace it with non-combustible cladding,” he said.

“We can see from the two fires we’ve had in Australia at Neo 200 [in Melbourne] and also in the Lacrosse building in Melbourne that a cladding fire can still be quite serious.

“The Government needs to make sure that particularly where we have residential buildings clad in combustible cladding that it is removed as soon as practicable.”

Mr Hanmer said aluminium composite panels containing less than 30 per cent plastic in the core were safe, but panels with higher than 30 percent plastic could combust.

The Tasmanian list does not specify what percentage of plastic is contained in the cladding of the buildings investigated.

In February, there was a fire at the Neo 200 building on Spencer Street in Melbourne, despite building managers saying the apartment complex had been found to be “fully compliant” with cladding standards.

Earlier this month the Victorian Government announced a $600 million plan to help address that state’s cladding issues.









First posted

July 24, 2019 09:54:09

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