Australia: Another combustible cladding apartment fire – has your building been registered?

Last Updated: 12 February 2019
Article by Mark Glynn

Shortly before 6:00am on the morning of Monday 4 February 2019, a fire broke out on the 22nd floor of the Neo200 Complex at 200 Spencer Street in Melbourne. Residents of the 372-apartment building were evacuated. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

Whilst the authorities will conduct their investigations and prepare detailed reports detailing the cause and progress and path of the fire, it has been widely reported that aluminium composite panels with a combustible polyethylene core formed part of the construction of the balconies and that this combustible cladding may have contributed to the spread of the fire up the building to the 29th floor before it was extinguished.

Combustible cladding used in the construction of commercial and residential buildings across Australia remains a significant concern and risk for owners, occupants, builders and developers alike.

It has also engendered a response and action from State and Territory governments across the country.

In July 2017, in response to the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London and the Lacrosse building fire also in Melbourne, NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean, announced a co-ordinated, whole of government 10-point plan approach related to the use of potentially dangerous cladding in NSW.

As part of the 10-point plan, the Cladding Taskforce was established and new laws have been introduced.

Cladding Registration Regulation

The NSW Government introduced the Cladding Registration Regulation1 to make provision for the identification of, and collection of information about, buildings to which external combustible cladding has been applied.

Building registration requirement

The Cladding Registration Regulation requires owners of certain buildings to check for external combustible cladding and register all affected buildings with the NSW Government on the NSW Cladding Registration portal at www.claddingregistration.nsw.gov.au.

A person who fails to register affected buildings by the deadline is liable for a fine of $1,500 ($3,000 for companies). The fine is doubled if the person or company fails to register buildings despite having been directed to do so by the Minster for Planning, Planning Secretary, Fire and Rescue NSW or a local council.

Registration Deadlines

Owners of existing buildings occupied before 22 October 2018 have until 22 February 2019 to register their building.

For new buildings that are yet to be occupied, the deadline for registration is 4 months after the building is first occupied.

Types of Buildings required to be registered

The Cladding Registration Regulation applies to new and existing two or more storey buildings of the following types:

  1. residential apartment buildings;
  2. other types of residential buildings where unrelated people sleep such as hotels, boarding houses, backpackers and student accommodation;
  3. aged-care buildings, hospitals and day surgeries (and any associated single dwellings within the building); and
  4. public assembly buildings where people may gather for social, theatrical, political, religious or civil purposes such as theatres, cinemas, schools and churches and any associated single dwellings within the building.

Types of Cladding

The Cladding Registration Regulation applies if any of these types of buildings have external combustible cladding made up of the following materials:

  1. metal composite panels, including products the consist of aluminium, zinc, or copper out layers and a core material; or
  2. insulated cladding systems including systems comprised of polystyrene, polyurethane, and polyisocyanurate.

Does the Cladding Registration Regulation apply to your building?

If you are the owner of a building with the type of external combustible cladding noted above, then the Cladding Registration Regulation applies to your building and needs to be registered.

If your building was occupied before 22 October 2018, the deadline for registration is 22 February 2019.

You do not need to be certain about the level of combustibility of the cladding on your building nor does the presence of external combustible cladding necessarily mean that it is a fire hazard, but it does need to be registered.

How do you know if the cladding on your building is a fire hazard?

If you are concerned about the cladding on your building, there are a number of steps that you should consider taking. Those steps include:

  • requesting a materials certificate from the builder who installed the cladding or the manufacturer of the cladding panels;
  • inspecting council records to obtain details of the type of cladding installed on your building; and
  • arranging for a qualified building consultant to carry out a site investigation, document audit, and if required an invasive inspection testing of the cladding on your external wall.

Bartier Perry's building and construction lawyers can:

  • assist you with determining if your building is required to be registered under the Cladding Registration Regulation;
  • recommend appropriately qualified building consultants with combustible cladding experience to assist you in assessing the cladding on your building; and
  • advise you in respect to any potential claim you may have if non-compliant combustible cladding has been used on the external walls of your building.

Footnote

1 Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings with External Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2018 (Cladding Registration Regulation).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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