Australian Senate provides update on aluminium composite cladding use

Following concerns with the use of aluminium composite cladding in Australia, on 5 September the Senate Economics References Committee released its interim report on aluminium composite cladding as part of the broader non-conforming building product inquiry. The report is substantive (100 pages) and the recommendations made are summarized as follows:

  1. The Commonwealth Government urgently implement a total ban on the importation, sale and use of polyethylene core aluminium composite panels;
  2. The establishment of a national licensing scheme through cooperation between Commonwealth and all state governments, covering surveyors, building inspectors, builders and project managers. This includes the implementation of nationally consistent mandatory on-site inspections throughout the construction process;
  3. The Building Minister’s Forum introduce nationally consistent measures to increase accountability across the supply chain, along the lines of recent Queensland legislation;
  4. The Commonwealth Government consider making all Australian Standards and Codes freely available. This would remove a significant cost to builders accessing Australian Standards required for National Construction Code (NCC) compliance;
  5. Imposition of penalty regime for non-compliance with the NCC such as revoking accreditation or bans from tendering for Commonwealth construction projects and substantial fines;
  6. Increased resources to the Federal Safety Commissioner;
  7. Support for the Commonwealth Government’s consideration to Director Identification Numbers to combat illegal phoenix activity; and
  8. Nationally consistent statutory duty of care to make those in the supply chain liable to end users in the residential strata sector.

If these recommendations are adopted, the combination of safety standards, ongoing professional training and statutory duty of care will impact the Australian construction sector especially with regard to standards for building products, the insurance industry, and the public’s expectations of enhanced safety for residential buildings. In New Zealand, there are similar concerns with the use of aluminium composite cladding. The building code was amended in January 2017 to restrict the use of combustible cladding. To date there have been two high rise buildings in Auckland which have been discovered to contain risky cladding. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if and how these recommendations are implemented into regulations in Australia and to see whether New Zealand will adopt a similar approach.

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