How Quickly Would a Fire Spread in Your Apartment Building?
By Nicole Wilde
6 September 2017
In 2014, a fire began on the balcony of the residential apartment high rise known as the Lacrosse building near Etihad Stadium in Docklands, and rapidly spread up the external façade of the building, resulting in the emergency evacuation of the building and 122 fire fighters attending. Fortunately, because of the (unintended) over performance of the sprinkler system within the Lacrosse building, the fire did not cause any fatalities.
The Building Code of Australia that applied at the time the Lacrosse building was constructed required the building to have elements to the degree necessary to avoid the spread of fire in a building.
However, the investigation following the Lacrosse fire made findings that the builder had used cladding material on the external walls of the building that were not ‘fit for purpose’ and which had not been certified as ‘non-combustible’ pursuant to the testing methods under Australian Standard AS1530.1:1994 ‘Combustibility Test for Materials’.
The flammable cladding in the Lacrosse building is only one example of non-compliant building material that has been used by a builder to construct a high-rise in Melbourne. A report prepared by the City of Melbourne after the Lacrosse fire identified that the use on non-accredited products within the building industry may go largely unchecked.
In 2016, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) initiated an External Wall Cladding Audit designed to identify the extent of non-compliant use of external wall cladding materials in residential high-rise buildings and public buildings. Building practitioners were required to ‘self-report’ any use of non-compliant building materials (or non-compliant uses of materials), however there does not appear to be any information about how many self-reported to the VBA.
If you are an Owners Corporation or apartment owner and are concerned that your building has been constructed with non-compliant building materials, you should seek independent legal advice about the legal boundaries of common property & private lot property within the building structure to determine who is responsible to investigate and if necessary, repair or replace. It may be possible for the cost of repair or replacement to be placed on the parties involved in the original construction.
For further information and guidance, please contact our Owners Corporation Team.
*The material appearing on this website is not intended to nor should it be relied on as a substitute for legal or other professional advice. It is general commentary not to be relied upon without specific instructions to us and advice to you.
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