Timber Cladding on low-rise apartment buildings

Friday 4 Oct 2019

A recent regulatory decision regarding the use of timber cladding on three-storey apartments in Australia will have a detrimental impact on the local wood products industry. This week Boris Iskra from Technical Promotion & Consulting Solutions (Aust) Pty Ltd explains the issues industry face and what businesses can do to voice concerns.

Following the devastating and tragic building façade fires (Lacrosse Building, Melbourne; Grenfell Tower, London), there has been a public outcry regarding how combustible cladding products have been allowed to be used on high-rise buildings.

As a result, politicians and regulators have stated that combustible cladding products will not be permitted for use on buildings. Unfortunately, this has now impacted on the use of timber cladding on three-storey low-rise apartment buildings which has been a viable timber market over the last 20 years.

Industry discussions with the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) have not been able to persuade the regulators that the construction sector’s compliant use of timber cladding on low-rise apartment buildings has not seen an increased risk of building fires; and that there is a major difference in fire safety risk between a 30-storey high-rise tower and a 3-storey low-rise building.

The ABCB has issued an out-of-cycle amendment to the National Construction Code 2019 (NCC). Public comment is sought by Friday 11th October 2019 The aim of the out-of-cycle amendment is to provide clarification of existing concessions for low-rise Class 2 (apartment) and 3 (hotel/motel) buildings which, if accepted, would effectively see the “banning” of the use of timber cladding on low-rise buildings under the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions of the NCC.

This would then require a developer or builder wishing to use timber cladding on a 3-storey apartment building, to engage the services of a fire engineer to prepare a Performance Solution which is both costly and offers no guarantee of acceptance by a Building Surveyor/Certifier. If the proposed amendment impacts your business please make a submission.

Source: VAFI News Mill

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