The Property Council of Australia is supporting a ban on the future importation and sale of 100% polyethylene (PE) core aluminium composite panels and the systematic auditing of existing buildings with cladding.
“The Senate Committee has recommended a ban on the importation and sale of PE cladding. For the sake of public confidence, the industry supports such a ban and audits”, said Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia.
“While there are some cladding products that are fire retardant, PE is not. Current codes allow this product to be used safely within appropriate fire safety systems, engineered and signed off by fire safety experts. However, we share the same desire as government to prioritise public safety in light of valid concerns about the use of PE cladding.
“We believe clear-eyed systematic audits are also vital. Where PE cladding is found in existing buildings, we expect most buildings will be declared safe given other safety features within the building. Where safety issues are found, they should be addressed as a priority. These audits will assess the buildings on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Morrison said that the industry has taken the initiative to review their own buildings and has been working with government on their own audits of large multi-storey buildings.
“Almost every state and territory are undertaking reviews of large buildings. The Queensland Government has passed legislation addressing non-conforming building products last month and the NSW Government has established an inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce. We support these efforts.
“As well, industry participants are reviewing their own buildings and in many cases, buildings they played a role in constructing up to a decade ago. For some time, the industry has been stepping up on this issue.
“Encouragingly, Property Council members are reporting very few instances of genuine safety risk – and are working through less critical issues that have become apparent during the review process.
“Fire safety systems are never just one component. Containing and retarding a fire depends on design, materials, and safety features that interlock. In undertaking a review, the inter-relationship of the PE cladding with the rest of the building can be appropriately assessed.
“Different circumstances will require different solutions. In cases where 100% PE cladding has been used inappropriately and does not comply with fire safety requirements, steps will be taken to address the specific safety concerns. In other cases, there is no safety risk because of the scope, layout or positioning of the cladding, or because of the other fire safety measures the building has.
“To members and non-members alike, our message is the same: get the experts in and review your buildings. That way we can maintain the high levels of public confidence in the industry and the buildings we produce.”
Mr Morrison said a ban on 100% PE cladding was a prudent move designed to further strengthen building fire safety systems.
“This move does not mean that buildings with 100% PE cladding are unsafe, rather it reflects the ongoing suitability of a product.
“People shouldn’t lie awake at night wondering if their homes are safe if there is no cause for concern. It is incumbent on everyone — government, industry and the media — to be straight with the community, and also not overstate the situation. In the overwhelming number of buildings being assessed, the issues relate to non-conforming products and not immediate fire safety risk.”