The construction of apartments and high-rise buildings in Australia is currently experiencing a boom. The practice means that there can be hundreds of new homes, but it’s also causing lots of problems. One of the main issues is that many of the new buildings don’t reach the safety standards for them to be habitable. A building that isn’t safe for anyone to live in isn’t useful to either owners or residents. The problem is one that is occurring in a number of Australian cities. They include Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The key issue relates to external cladding, which often presents a fire hazard.
A survey revealed that more than half of Melbourne’s high-rises don’t meet safety standards. The Victorian Building Authority conducted an audit, prompted by a fire that occurred in November 2014. The fire happened at Lacrosse Apartments in Melbourne’s Docklands. It was determined that it was the cladding that was to blame for the spreading of that fire. The audit found 51% of Melbourne’s buildings have wall cladding that doesn’t follow regulations. The cladding poses a high risk during a fire but isn’t an immediate safety concern for residents. However, one building was required to take action immediately. To avoid these issues, you should consider using materials that are approved by building specialists, and install fire alarm systems.
In Brisbane, a student accommodation building has been ruled uninhabitable. The problem is again due to the external cladding. Iglu Brisbane City used non-compliant aluminium cladding. The material used is similar to that used on Melbourne’s Lacrosse Apartments. The same material was also used on a building in Dubai that caught fire during a New Year’s celebration. The new building was supposed to open in January 2016, ready for students to move in. But the 23-storey building had to be put on hold. Students were offered accommodation elsewhere. The cladding will now need to be stripped back and replaced.
Sydney hasn’t managed to escape the problems with fire safety regulations either. Reports recently revealed that up to 2,500 buildings in the city could be non-compliant. The NSW Department of Planning and the Environment looked into it. They say that the number is between 1,800 and 2,500. These buildings also use cheap cladding that presents a fire risk. The Strata Community Australia Chief Executive says that the problem is almost certainly nationwide.
So why are there so many buildings in Australia using external cladding that doesn’t comply with regulations? The answer lies in the source of the cladding, which usually comes from China. It sometimes comes from elsewhere, such as in the case of the Brisbane accommodation, where it was from Dubai. Cost-cutting leads to companies sourcing their materials from outside of the country. These materials might have been tested for fire safety in their place of origin. But they have likely not been tested by Australian standards. The answer to the issue lies partly in preventing these materials from entering the country in the first place.
A lot of work will be required to fix this ongoing problem. As well as greater enforcement of building regulations, tighter import controls may be necessary.