The Lacrosse Apartments fire at Docklands, Melbourne

State and federal planning ministers have agreed to tackle the proliferation of faulty building materials at a Building Ministers’ Forum held in Melbourne on Friday, with a mandatory certification scheme for high-risk products on the table.

Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne said he had put fire safety of high-rise buildings on the agenda following last year’s Lacrosse Apartments fire in Docklands, in which non-complaint cladding was a major factor in the fire’s spread.

“All the states have today recognised the need for a stronger building products accreditation system to help prevent fire tragedies in our high rises,” Mr Wynne said.

“We must act on this as a matter of priority, to ensure that the lives of people in the community are safe and not put at risk.”

The Forum has established a working group to investigate options for a mandatory certification scheme for high-risk building products and report back to ministers within six months. It will also continue reviewing standards to improve the design and speed of early fire warning systems.

Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Leeanne Enoch said the working group would “develop options for the best possible safeguards for building and construction industry members and the public”.

Another recommendations was for the Australian Building Codes Board to consider changes to the National Construction Code requiring sprinklers on all balconies, regardless of size.

An Engineers Australia article on fire safety reform said balcony sprinklers were a key mitigation measure.

“In the case of high rise apartment buildings, one mitigation measure that will be very effective in controlling fire spread is the sprinkler protection of balconies,” NDY’s senior fire engineer Dr Millie Wan said in the piece.

A communique released following the forum said:

“The BMF shares industry’s concerns about the health and safety risks posed by potentially non-conforming building products and materials making their way into the Australian building and construction supply chain and the non-compliant use of building products.

“To address these issues, Ministers established a working group of senior officers to report to Ministers within six months on strategies to minimise the risks to consumers, businesses and the community associated with failure of building products to conform to relevant laws and regulations and at the point of import.

“Ministers also agreed that, to ensure that community health and safety is effectively maintained, the ABCB will investigate options for a possible mandatory scheme for high risk building products with life safety implications and report to Ministers within six months. In addition, the ABCB will consider and report on possible amendments to the National Construction Code to require fire sprinkler protection to covered balconies of multi-storey buildings.”

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