Tech Information: Combustible Claddings

Posted on October 09, 2017

COMBUSTIBLE CLADDINGS  - 'What you need to know!'                                                                                                                           

In recent times, the spotlight has been placed on the compliance of building facades throughout Australia and around the world.  This has been in response to several fires involving high-rise buildings, including the Lacrosse Building Fire in Melbourne (2014) and the Grenfell Tower Fire in London (2017), which killed over 80 people.

As expected, the attention these fires have received in the media has been significant (which is appropriate given the scale of the tragedy as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire).  However, it has also resulted in some confusion within the building industry about what needs to be done to achieve compliance and avoid the likelihood of another tragedy.

The purpose of this article is to detail some key requirements that Knisco believe our clients should be aware of—

  • Firstly, it is important to note that the requirements of the BCA have not changed.  Instead, this issues stems from the use of combustible elements in incorrect locations – especially, as part of the external walls of high-rise buildings.
  • The requirement for non-combustible external walls only applies to buildings required to be Type A or Type B Construction.  A building required to be of Type C construction may have combustible elements in their external walls.
  • For the purpose of the BCA, “non-combustible” is defined as follows—

      (a)  Applied to a material – as determined by AS1530.1

      (b)  Applied to construction or part of a building – constructed wholly or in part of non-combustible materials.

  • For the purpose of the BCA, the following materials are deemed non-combustible—

      (a)  Plasterboard

      (b)  Fibrous-plaster sheeting

      (c)  Fibre-reinforced cement sheeting

  • An external wall includes all components incorporated in them including the façade covering, cladding, framing and insulation.
  • Finally, it is important to note the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB), which is the organisation responsible for the development of the Building Code of Australia (BCA), is proposing an out-of-cycle amendment to the BCA to expedite the adoption of amendments to address some ambiguity as a result of the recent fires in Australia & around the world. To access the draft changes, please visit the ABCB website – www.abcb.gov.au.  NOTE: Public comment on these changes recently closed.

Other non-combustible materials that are commonly used for the construction of external walls include cement and masonry.

So what do you need to know as an architect, builder, developer, project manager..?

If you are proposing to use or are using a material that is forming part of an external wall in a building of Type A or Type B Construction, you must be able to provide a test report that confirms that it is non-combustible through testing to AS1530.1.

From Knisco’s perspective, we will be requesting confirmation of this testing for any materials proposed to be used as part of our design reviews (prior to issue of the Building Approval), as part of the conditions of our Building Approvals, during construction as part of our inspections, and following completion of construction (prior to the issue of a Certificate of Classification / Occupancy Certificate / or equivalent).

If you are ever unsure about what you need to do to achieve compliance, please don’t hesitate to contact the office on (07) 3852 2080.

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