Future owners of new apartments will be protected from buying into potentially unsafe buildings with Federal and State government agreement last week to place a moratorium on the use of composite aluminium cladding in high-rise construction.
However current owners still face the prospect of having to arrange for inspections of their buildings to determine whether they must undertake costly rectification works.
At the Strata Fire Safety Forum, convened by Lannock Strata Finance last month, Allan Harriman, Director of building regulation and fire safety engineering consultancy BCA Logic, revealed the difficulties faced by strata owners in identifying non-complying cladding.
“In cases where there is aluminium cladding on a building, the owners should seek the advice of a professional, a building surveyor or fire safety engineer to identify the nature of the cladding,” said Mr Harriman.
“That process can begin with a paper trail audit from documents but more importantly we need to know exactly what is on the building. Sometimes it has been substituted by the installer or at some other point in the supply chain.”
Mr Harriman said the problem was real and Australia faced a situation comparable to the dangers posed by the widespread use of asbestos in the 80s.
“It may be that cladding is the asbestos of 2017,” said Mr Harriman.
As a result of uncertainty in documentation and evidence of product and label substitution the only way to be certain of the true nature of the aluminium cladding is to have it tested by an independent body such as the CSIRO.
The test currently costs around $7500 but a proposed new testing regime is likely to take the cost to around $20,000.
“You need to rip a section of the (aluminium) panel off and test it to see exactly what it is,” said Mr Harriman. “Going through the records doesn’t guarantee that what the builder or architect specified is what ended up on site.”
The combined governments’ decision to place a moratorium on future use of cladding in high-rise towers falls short of a Senate recommendation to ban the import of composite aluminium cladding with a polyethylene core.
Lannock Managing Director Paul Morton said the decision does nothing to address the problems faced by existing owners.
“We are still looking for leadership and reassurance from governments at all levels to deal with a problem that has been many years in the making,” said Mr Morton.
“It’s good news for new properties and their owners but there are thousands of people living in non-complying buildings who face a potential threat to their personal safety as well as the prospect of a financial hit if they have to remove the cladding and undertake expensive rectification works or other fire safety measures to counter the risk.”
Contact Lannock for more information on financing options for strata fire safety compliance.