A Cladding Tinderbox: Will your High Rise Insulate or Immolate?
No-one wants to get caught in a high rise fire. A spate of external cladding fires around the world has prompted new precautions. Anyone that owns or lives in a residential high rise should read on.
Inflammable aluminium composite panels were banned in NSW from 15 August 2018 due to fire safety risks. An existing building that does not comply with the ban will automatically become an ‘affected building’ within the meaning of the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017.
What do I need to do?
Check if your building has combustible cladding and if it does, register it.
Now, existing building owners must, from 22 October 2018, check for external combustible cladding and if affected, register with the NSW Government, if their building has:
- residential apartments;
- unrelated people sleeping (hotels, boarding houses, backpackers, student accommodation);
- aged-care, hospital or day surgery facilities
- public assembly facilities (theatres, cinemas, schools and churches).
And has external combustible cladding made of:
- metal composite panels including aluminium, zinc, or copper; or
- insulated systems, including polystyrene, polyurethane, and polyisocyanurate.
What does it mean?
If your building has cladding, it does not necessarily mean it is a safety hazard. You should find out if it does by getting a fire safety assessment from a fire safety professional.
The deadline to register with the Department of Planning through a new online portal is 22 February 2019 (if occupied before 22 October 2018) or 4 months after first occupation.
If you don’t register, you can be fined $1,500 ($3,000 for companies) or double that if you are directed to by the government and don’t.
The register will be open to the Fire Service and may become public.
There are now limited circumstances where cladding can be approved without a DA, and building owners should expect increased compliance costs. If you are purchasing in such a building, you definitely need due diligence prior, a standard strata inspection report is unlikely to pick up any issues.