Dangerous fire cladding audit in Ku-ring-gai apartment buildings

In the wake of recent fire tragedies affecting apartment buildings around the world, Ku-ring-gai Council is to audit cladding used in unit blocks built after 2005.

During the program which started this month, officers will seek to identify residential and commercial buildings containing  wall cladding materials that are not compliant with the Building Code of Australia or associated Australian Standards. The audit will be a desktop survey followed up with site visits, a council spokesman said.

The fire safety inspection program will target apartment buildings constructed since 2005. The wall cladding of concern which was only used after 2005 in Australia, is made from aluminium composite panels, consisting of two aluminium faces and a 3mm to 5mm core material of either polyethylene, mineral based material or a combination of both.

Panels with a higher proportion of mineral based material are generally considered to have better fire performance than those with a polyethelene core.

Mayor Jennifer Anderson said the issue with the aluminium composite panels ‘primarily relates to multi-storey buildings’.

“Buildings with this type of cladding are at risk because the panels have the capacity to fuel the fire.They can act as a chimney, drawing the flame and accelerating the spread of fire quite dramatically”.

The Mayor added that residents who were concerned should in the first instance contact their strata manager to obtain advice from a qualified fire safety engineer.

“Fire safety engineers can arrange testing of the materials used in the cladding. Residents of unit buildings should also keep fire exits clear of obstacles and ensure that fire extinguishers are working correctly.”

The Mayor said Council staff carrying out inspections would work with the owners of buildings found to have wall cladding materials that were suspect.

“If needed the Council will use powers under the  Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to ensure buildings are made fire safe”, the Mayor said. The Council spokesperson added that residents may not have to move out while remediation work is carried out, “though is will be a matter of negotiation between the building owner and residents,” and that the work would be paid for by building owners.

Hornsby Council is not planning an audit of its apartments, saying the cladding in question is only hazardous when used in buildings above a certain height.

A spokesman said: “The multi-unit buildings in Hornsby Shire don’t use aluminium composite panels or other combustible cladding contrary to the Building Code of Australia. There are only a few buildings in the Shire high enough to be at risk like the London building, and they comply with the code.”

Leave a Reply