WA Cladding Update

Malcolm Jones , 9 May 2019

ACA – WA President Malcolm Jones gives an overview of the WA cladding audit, issues around ACP compliance, and some early next steps.

Throughout Australia, government authorities are carrying out audits to assess the extent of non-compliant cladding on certain types of multi-storey buildings.

The Auditing Process

In Western Australia, the state-wide cladding audit has involved:

  • Identifying buildings 3 storeys and over, Classes 2, 3, 4 and 9 with cladding, constructed or refurbished (where a building licence/permit was issued) after 2000. These are generally buildings in which people sleep, such as apartments, hotels and other short stay accommodation, or which accommodate vulnerable occupants or high occupancy events.
  • Determining whether cladding associated with these buildings poses an unacceptable risk of fire spread.
  • Applying an appropriate intervention where an unacceptable risk is found to exist.

Buildings are being assessed based on their degree of risk to public safety.

Once the Audit Team advises the relevant local authorities, each council, not surprisingly, is taking a slightly different approach with regard to the means and methods of remediation.

In addition to the government-sponsored Audit Team, property owners and corporate tenants are also initiating their own audits. This is, we suspect, being largely driven by the requirements of their insurers.

At this time, there is no indication whether the WA Government–led audit will extend its investigation into other building classes.

Compliance of ACPs

The issue of compliance of aluminium composite panels (ACP) as a non-combustible cladding material raises a number of questions that are yet to be answered, but could have far-reaching impacts on the building and design industry. These include:

  • What is the potential liability of architects, fire engineers and building surveyors for costs associated with replacement of ACPs on buildings?
  • Will this affect the ability of fire engineers and building surveyors to obtain continuing PI insurance?
  • What is the potential liability of ACP manufacturers and suppliers for selling and/or promoting non-compliant building products?

In the meantime, it is important to gain a better understanding of the performance of different categories of ACP via full-scale testing. For instance, there may be the ability to reduce the spread of fire by removing some ACP in order to break continuity of material.

What can you do?

Until things become clearer, it is prudent for architects to do the following at a minimum:

  • Conduct your own internal audit of projects where ACPs have been installed and/or specified;
  • Keep your PI insurers fully informed;
  • Change your specification of cladding materials to ensure compliance with current NCC amendments; and
  • Review the specification of cladding materials to type C construction buildings in conjunction with your clients. (Non-combustible materials may not be required to type C construction by NCC, but may be required by clients’ insurers).

On 31 May, the ACA – WA Committee will present an analysis of the implications to architects from the Lacrosse fire judgment from Isla McRobbie, a Partner with Jackson McDonald.