Melbourne apartment building unsafe to live in due to cladding and fire safety


August 23, 2019 18:35:35

Residents have been ordered to leave an apartment building in Melbourne’s south-east which is covered in combustible cladding.

Key points:

  • Authorities ruled the building had a number of defects including combustible cladding and mould
  • All remaining residents in the Mordialloc building have been ordered to leave within 48 hours
  • The local council has offered to help residents who cannot find their own emergency accommodation

The Mordialloc building has been deemed unsafe to occupy after an inspection by the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) statewide cladding audit yesterday.

Most of the decade-old complex’s 17 units were already vacant, with the four remaining residents given 48 hours to move out.

The VBA’s chief executive officer, Sue Eddy, said the decision was not taken lightly.

She said the building had a number of defects including combustible cladding on the external walls, insufficient essential safety measures and significant water damage that had led to extensive mould.

“An expert panel was convened and they made an assessment after looking at all the essential fire safety measure of this building that it was not viable for this building to remain occupied and that it needed to be vacated in the interests of public safety,” Ms Eddy said.

She said she understood this could be a distressing time for the residents, but safety must take priority.

“I know this relocation may cause anxiety, but I want to assure the Victorian public that this was not a decision taken lightly,” she said.

Ms Eddy said if current residents were unable to find alternate accommodation, the City of Kingston would be able to help them with their immediate needs.

“[The building’s] state today is very concerning and this is the first time that we’ve come across a property where the experts haven’t been able to come across a solution to keep the residents there.”

‘No longer safe for occupation’

The City of Kingston used its powers to issue an emergency order giving the residents 48 hours to depart.

Mayor Georgina Oxley said the safety of residents was paramount.

“Due to the extreme fire risk identified, council has responded to the Victorian Building Authority’s advisory reference panel recommendation and agreed to use its powers to issue an emergency order for the site,” Cr Oxley said.

“The panel assessed the site as at the highest risk factor and council has responded to protect the safety of residents,” she said.

She confirmed council had offered to provide assistance to residents if they could not find emergency accommodation.

This is the first building issued with an evacuation order since a Victoria-wide cladding audit begun in 2017.

The ABC understands the builder involved left the industry in 2015.

It is understood ongoing water leaks within the building caused a mould outbreak and concerns that the apartment complex was no longer structurally sound.

It is also believed the fire safety system was also damaged.

‘Severe danger to life’

Cladding has been a major headache for the Andrews Government, as well as in other jurisdictions across Australia.

In July, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $600 million package to deal with the flammable cladding crisis in Victoria, where about 500 buildings need rectification work to be made safe.

Sahil Bhasin, the national general manager at building inspection company Roscon, predicted more buildings would be slapped with evacuation orders as the cladding audit’s focus shifted towards Melbourne’s outer suburbs.

“As the Victorian cladding audit and the Victorian Building Authority starts expanding its audit to the outer suburbs, this is going to become more and more prevalent because the housing stock in the outer suburbs is built to a price point and not towards quality in most cases,” Mr Bhasin said.

“There are many building in the outer suburbs that are built out of compete expanded polystyrene, which is EPS, which is one of the claddings that are a concern.

“Apartment owners and unit owners should really be investing in some reporting and investigation to fast track this process and to alleviate their own concerns and not wait for the Victorian Government to catch up to the outer suburbs, because as you can see by this action, there is an actual severe danger to life.”









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