Insurance brokers have been warned to practice vigilance when assessing building risks following the discovery of non-compliant, highly flammable cladding used in the construction of buildings in Victoria.
Victorian Building Association (VBA) conducted an audit of 170 building permits following an Melbourne apartment fire that climbed 13 storeys in November 2014, causing $2 million in damages, due to combustible wall cladding used in construction.
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s (MFB) investigation into the blaze found that the use of aluminium composite panels (ACP) on the buildings external walls contributed to the fast and dangerous spread of the fire.
Commonly used by builders as feature panels to provide a decorative finish on external walls, the use of ACP in the Melbourne Dockland’s apartment fire did not comply with the National Construction Code (NCC).
Andrew Nock Valuers founder Andrew Nock says that brokers need to be careful, as property valuations will not distinguish the problematic product.
“This product will not be detected by a valuer during an inspection,” Nock says.
“Clients and insurance brokers need to be vigilant and to find out if any of this external cladding has been installed in any recent building works.”
LMI Group’s Professor Allan Manning says that the only way to know for sure if the building contains the hazardous material is to ask the builder for a materials certificate.
“Ask for a certificate from the builder or the manufacturer to show what the material is. If it is a reputable brand, they will give you a certificate and give you the fire rating,” Manning says.
Manning says that the questionable standard of building materials being used in Australia is becoming a serious issue due to the lack of government regulation surrounding the use of imported products.
“The trouble is that Australia used to test all these building materials. There were government departments that you had to submit your materials too, now it’s all self-regulated,” Manning says.
“We have companies importing the stuff, selling it off, and when it gets found out it becomes the builder’s problem.”
“The directors of these companies should be made accountable for the material and they should be responsible for bringing something into the country,” Manning adds.
Preliminary audit findings reveal that the material has been used against compliance in the construction of other properties in and around the Melbourne metropolitan area.
A Federal Senate inquiry, sponsored by SA senator Nick Xenophon, with the support of senators John Madigan (Victoria) and Jacqui Lambie (Tasmania), has been launched into the potential impact the use of such materials will have on consumers, particularly insurance costs.