On 1 Feb 2021, the Victorian government announced a prohibition on the use of high risk cladding products on new multi-storey buildings, effective on the same day.
Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, announced the prohibition on flammable aluminium composite panels (ACP) and rendered expanded polystyrene (EPS) as external wall cladding on all future multi-storey developments within Victoria.
The ban will prohibit the use of these high-risk products on apartment buildings, and other residential buildings such as hotels and aged care facilities with two or more storeys. The ban also extends to office buildings, shopping centres or other retail premises, warehouses, factories and car parks with three or more storeys.
The aim of the ban is limit the potential risk to the public from any future inappropriate use and reduces the risk of cladding fire incidents follow the incidents at Grenfell Tower, London in June 2017 and Neo200 building in Melbourne CBD in February 2019.
Both of these buildings were covered in aluminium composite panels (ACP). Investigations were conducted to examine why fire spreads so quickly when these claddings ignites, the article can be found here.
According to the media release, published by the Premier of Victoria, the Government also commissioned a cost benefit analysis, which found the ban will result in a net economic benefit of approximately $1 million annually due to reduced professional indemnity insurance costs. Building surveyors are responsible for signing off on buildings and it is required that a register building surveyor must have professional indemnity insurance, without any exemptions. However, after the cladding crisis, majority of the insurance underwriters no longer provide such cover, meaning building surveyors needed to pay premium in order to stay registered.
As part of the announcement, the Victorian Building Authority will be given extra power to enforce the cladding ban in its role as Victoria’s building regulator. Building companies that breach the ban will be fined up to $400,000 and Individuals can be fined up to $80,000.
Back in July 2019, the Victorian Government already established a $600 million Cladding Rectification Program to enable rectification of hundreds of buildings identified through the State-wide Cladding Audit conducted by the Victorian Building Authority and as part of the program, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce recommended prohibiting the use of combustible cladding in multi-storey buildings. Since the recommendation was made, the government conducted a five-month consultation process with the industry last year on the proposed ban. It is expected by the government that the building industry will not oppose to the new rules.
The new rule introduced will not dramatically affect the town planning aspects of developments within Victoria. Most likely effect on current town planning applications will be local councils issuing request for further information, requesting for changes in the material schedule. For the permit approved development, the responsibility of enforcing the ban will lie with the building surveyors.
More information about the specific cladding products and technical information about the risk posed by their inappropriate use can be found here.