Building cladding review

Cladding audit update – all buildings safe to occupy

Statement from Minister for Building Quality, Gordon Ramsay

18 December 2019

An extensive audit of ACT Government owned buildings that were identified as having potentially combustible cladding has found that they are all safe for people to continue to occupy.

Of the 466 sites that were initially assessed, only 70 have been found to have some form of potentially combustible cladding.

Importantly, the audit has confirmed that none of these 70 sites pose significant risk to the community or building occupants.

The Government is now assessing each site individually to confirm what, if any, remediation work is required.

This may include upgrading a building's fire safety system and, in some instances, may include the removal of some or all of the cladding.

It is important for the community to understand that the presence of cladding on a building does not automatically mean a building is unsafe to occupy.

Factors that contribute to the risk posed from cladding are determined by the type of cladding used, how the cladding has been installed, where it appears on the building, the height and size of the building, the occupants of the building, as well as existing fire safety measures.

Our priority will be to ensure any immediate actions that can be taken are, which includes practices like removing any potential ignition sources, reviewing and updating emergency management plans and making sure building occupants are advised of any remediation work.

The Government will not be releasing any further information about these buildings at this time.

The next and more detailed assessment phase in relation to any remediation works will be undertaken by highly qualified government officials.

The Government will also start the work on identifying, where possible, the use of potentially combustible cladding on private buildings in the ACT.

We will continue to engage with insurers, building owners and a variety of stakeholders to ensure the community is informed about managing any risks associated with potentially combustible cladding and is assured about the safety of all buildings in the ACT.

Purpose of the Review

Cladding describes the material used to cover the external wall of a building.

Common materials used for cladding include:

  • weatherboard
  • lightweight panels, such as aluminium composite panels (ACPs)
  • polystyrene products
  • metal sheeting

External cladding material can be part of the wall or used as an attachment. Cladding materials can meet the ACT’s building safety standards if they are installed in accordance with the National Construction Code (NCC).

The ACT Government is carrying out a review to determine whether combustible cladding materials have been used in a way that doesn’t comply with ACT building standards, or poses an unacceptable risk to building occupants.

An Inter-agency Building Cladding Review Group has been established to:

  • determine fire safety risks associated with the non-compliant use of external wall cladding including ACPs and potentially combustible claddings and wall systems on privately owned buildings in the ACT, and buildings owned or leased by the ACT Government
  • provide expert advice on the scale of the use of non-compliant cladding in buildings in Canberra and on specific measures to manage any risk of rapid, external structure fires that may prevent safe evacuation of a building or buildings
  • provide advice on what remediation or risk mitigation, if any, may be required on ACT Government buildings.
Buildings covered by the review

The review will initially include all buildings with National Construction Code classifications of Class 2–9 buildings in the ACT covered by the Building Act, with priority for buildings including classes 2, 3, 4, and 9 classifications of two storeys and higher.

Class 2, 3 and 4 buildings are residential buildings such as:

  • apartments
  • hotels
  • student accommodation

Class 9 buildings include:

  • health care
  • education
  • public buildings
  • entertainment venues

It can be more difficult for occupants to safely evacuate these buildings.

Single and attached dwellings (class 1 buildings) and associated buildings such as sheds, garages and carports (class 10 buildings) are not included as the fire safety risks for these buildings are lower and so there are fewer restrictions on the type of material used for external walls in these buildings.

The review does not include buildings located in the ACT but owned by the Australian Government. The Australian Government has undertaken to review its own buildings.

The review group

The review group members are:

  • Dr Erin Brady, EPSDD Deputy Director-General, Land Strategy and Environment
  • Vanessa Morris, EPSDD Coordinator, Building Policy
  • Mark Brown, ESA Chief Officer, ACT Fire & Rescue
  • David Foot, ESA Director, Risk & Planning
  • Ben Green, Access Canberra Executive Branch Manager, Construction and Utilities and Construction Occupations Registrar

EPSDD chairs and coordinates the group.

Terms of reference

The review group will:

  • as far as practicable, identify buildings on which ACPs or other materials have been used as external wall cladding in a way that is not, or may not be, compliant with the building code (identification methods may include assessment of building documentation and visual verification of the presence of cladding)
  • undertake a risk assessment and prioritisation of identified buildings for further audit, inspection or remediation
  • provide advice to the Minister, other directorates, building owners and occupants on managing any identified fire safety risks, including temporary fire safety precautions
  • report to the Minister on findings of the identification and risk assessment and priorities for further work including short- and long-term management of buildings for which non-compliant cladding poses an unacceptable level of risk
  • coordinate communications, briefing and reports in relation to the review and any identified safety risks
Amendment to the National Construction Code

The Building Ministers' Forum directed the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) to expedite changes to the NCC from a comprehensive package of measures for fire safety in high rise buildings developed following the Lacrosse Apartments fire in Melbourne in 2014. At its 23 November 2017 meeting, the ABCB endorsed the release and adoption of NCC 2016 Volume One Amendment 1. The Amendment took effect on 12 March 2018. All approval applications made from this date must comply with the NCC 2016 as amended.

The main aspects of the amendment include:

  • a new Verification Method that adopts the external wall testing standard, AS 5113
  • improving the evidence of suitability provisions
  • clarifying the deemed-to-satisfy provisions relating to the fire performance of external walls
  • referencing the updated sprinkler standard, AS 2118, with a transition period from the currently referenced version

More information

Find out more about:

If you have any information that would help to identify the non-compliant use of ACPs or other combustible cladding materials on a building in the ACT, contact the Building Cladding Working Group on 02 6207 8370 or claddingreview@act.gov.au.