Australia’s building ministers have agreed to an in-principle ban on the use of combustible cladding in new construction at a meeting in Hobart last week.
In a communique following the Building Ministers Forum (BMF), the Minister's said the ban will be subject to a cost/benefit analysis, including impacts on the supply chain, potential impacts on the building industry, any unintended consequences, and a proposed timeline for implementation.
The report covering all of these factors will be prepared in time for the next BMF in July, 2019.
Days before the BMF, residents were evacuated from the 41 storey Neo200 apartment building in Melbourne after the cladding caught fire.
The building used the same material as the Grenfell Tower in London, which caught fire killing 72 people in 2017.
In addition to the ban, Ministers were updated on work to develop an Australian standard for permanent labelling of Aluminium Composite Panels (ACPs). To fast track this work it was agreed that a technical specification will be put in place first.
The Communique also said Ministers supported “in-principle that building practitioners should owe a duty of care to building owners (and subsequent building owners) for residential construction work and certain commercial construction for small business, and if required this should be provided for in legislation.”
This will be considered again at the July meeting.
During the BMF, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) presented the 2019 edition of the National Construction Code (NCC) which was released on February 1, 2019.
Changes in NCC 2019 further enhance fire safety with new requirements for apartment buildings and other residential buildings above three storeys and below 25 metres to have fire sprinkler systems installed.
University of NSW Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, Geoff Hanmer, said there are too many building defects and the problem can only be fixed by changing the culture of the residential building industry.
Hammer said steps also need to be taken to improve residential building standards in the NCC.
“The current NCC codes for Class 2 buildings (home units) favour innovation and cost reduction over consumer protection. This is the wrong way around for housing,” he said.
“Section F, which covers health and amenity (including waterproofing), is weak and must be strengthened.”