Australia’s non-conforming cladding crisis and the urgent need for approved fire-resistent replacement cladding solutions
The Lacrosse façade fire in 2014 illuminated an even larger non-conforming cladding crisis that will now cost the industry approximately $6.2 billion to fix. Demand for the rectification of non-conforming cladding problems requires an integrated approach to include more stringent fire-resisting cladding solution remedies.
The building crisis that costs $6.2 billion to fix
In November 2014, the Lacrosse building in the Docklands precinct suffered a serious fire caused by the ignition of combustible materials (cardboard boxes etc.) stored on the balcony. Within 10 minutes, the fire spread quickly throughout 13 floors of the
building(1). The Lacrosse incident was the first case in Australia to raise alarm bells locally shortly followed by the Grenfell Tower catastrophe. Together these two significant events sent shudders through the building industry and unfolded Australia’s major regulatory failures with regards to non-conforming cladding concerns.
The Lacrosse building fire raised concerns over combustible cladding in Australia.
Source: The Australian
According to the latest research commissioned by Equity Economics in collaboration with Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, over 3,400 apartment buildings in Australia (350 of which are in Sydney alone) are clad with non-conforming combustible panels and the remediation of the problem is likely to cost $6.2 billion(2). Indeed the report highlights the inclusion of many modern buildings constructed over the past 10 years. The figures are expected to become even more daunting when older buildings are investigated(3). Nonetheless, it is important to understand that the culprit behind this national crisis is not new and relates to non-conforming combustible composite cladding imported over many years.
The alarming threat of non-conforming imported composite cladding
When it was first introduced to Australia nearly four decades ago, composite cladding was attractive to architects and builders due to its lower cost. However, what also accompanied importation of the product was a low awareness about the non-conforming cladding products flammability concerns. Following the recent incidents of fire on building covered with non-conforming cladding product was that this cheaper option actually came with some pricey unforeseen consequences.
Generally speaking, composite cladding panels consist of two thin aluminium skins and an insulating core . In case of extreme heat, the glues in-between the aluminium skins lose adhesion and deform, thus exposing the insulating core. The exposure of the core creates an inherent fire(1).
Flammable composite cladding has been used in Australia for nearly 4 decades
The defects in non-conforming cladding do not comply with Australian standards or the National Construction Code (NCC). It appears that importers of non-conforming may not fully understand the nature of the requirements under our regulations, codes and standards governing such products. In addition, Australia seems to have a regulatory issue to ensure product conforms to the acceptable standards, and thus has failed to eliminate the non-conforming product.
In the wake of the Lacrosse façade fire, several regulations have been tightened. Centre Alliance recently announced that it will reintroduce a bill to the Senate in order to ban the importation of non-conforming combustible cladding(5). Such changes are much-awaited and the improvements are much demanded.
In response to the non-conforming combustible cladding crisis the Australian building industry is in urgent need of conforming cladding solutions.
Evershield® AQ Sheet – a fire-safe and smarter solution
With over 40 years of experience, AAF understands that with appropriate pre-treatment and preparation, exterior cladding and finishing could be fire-safe, fit-for-purpose, compliant while staying aesthetic and economical. That’s why we have introduced the innovative Evershield® AQ Sheet – a smarter, full-service solution for anodised facades.
Anodised aluminium finishes are non-combustible and have the appropriate fire testing. Not to mention the cladding is 100% recyclable.
The electro-chemical treatment of the aluminium outer layer offers an integral, hard durable anodised finish. In addition, the surface finish does not flake, peel or blister. Evershield® high grade finishes achieve an exceptional hardness and durability that exceed both the AAMA 611 and AS1231-2000 performance standards.
AAF testing of 32 panels from different Evershield® sheet batch samples
AAF has Third Party Accreditation through The Australasian Institute of Surface Finishing (AISF). The “AnoAudit” helps reassure builders and fabricators that specified Evershield® finishes are fully compliant, non-flammable and of best practices for exterior cladding.
Sovereign Gold production for a new facility in the Sydney West Connex project
Besides the environmental and fire-safe commitment, other benefits of Evershield® AQ Sheet solution include:
- Consistent shading for anodised façades through strict processing controls and specialised spectrophotometric equipment to measure shade and colour.
- Superior depth of appearance of metallic finish as we sort out the perfect alloy substrate and sheet from the outset.
- Economical pricing and more readily available in Australia for shorter lead time, thanks to AAF’s partnerships with various suppliers.
Specifying Evershield® AQ Sheet is quick, easy and convenient. The solution could be included in the original anodising specification for Evershield® high grade range of colours and lustres. Then, AAF Evershield® sheet team will provide technical help and control the process from beginning to end to make sure facades are more consistent, fire-safe, affordable and superior aluminium finishes.