Awareness about combustible cladding risks crucial for brokers

The world watched in horror as the Grenfell Tower with hundreds of people inside burnt for twenty four hours, but have we learnt enough from the disaster to ensure history isn’t repeated?

Most of the blame for the fire spreading quickly was attributed to the combustible cladding on the exterior of the building, but similar cladding is being used right across Australia.

The NIBA Convention session, ‘Grenfell Tower and Cladding – Latest Developments’ is crucial for brokers to attend as much of the official responses to high-rise fires accelerated by flammable cladding are happening behind closed doors, according to Fire Engineer, Steve Burton.

Burton recently told the Queensland Association of Fire Investigators (QAFI) that the industry was “not being fully informed”. Combustible cores within aluminium composite panels (ACP) were the problem, and that ACP, initially meant for weatherproofing or for decorative purposes had “crept into whole walls”.

The cladding session at the NIBA Convention will look into the circumstances surrounding London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy, and its impact on fire-fighting response in high rise buildings with a cladding presence and will feature prominent experts from the industry and beyond including Peter Johansson, Senior Risk Engineer, Zurich Financial Services Australia and Aon’s Real Estate Practice Leader, Troy Bates.

Johansson says, “Brokers should be vigilant about the use of polyethylene core ACPs in low-rise buildings as well, as Australia’s National Construction Code allows for their use in smaller buildings.”

“To date the focus around aluminium composite panels (ACPs), particularly the flammable polyethylene core variety, has been on their application on high-buildings. The tricky thing is, once installed there’s no way of knowing what type of ACP has been used – you can’t tell from visual inspection. We would urge all brokers and their customers to speak with trained risk engineers who can assist with managing the risks and exposure associated with ACPs.”

Bates says, “The NIBA Convention session will examine how insurers have responded to date, and share risk management insights and key questions to consider in developing an insurance approach to cladding within the current insurance market.”

Burton said the 2014 Lacrosse apartment building fire in Melbourne’s Docklands was the first major fire in Australia involving ACP, but “surprisingly” it was not until London’s Grenfell Tower fatalities in 2017 that the issue came to the forefront. And that understanding the risk requires data collection, risk awareness and risk modelling.

Register for the NIBA Convention here.