Cladding – what to do?

Following the deadly residential fire in London’s Grenfell Tower, the use of cladding in high-rise buildings in Australia and whether they are fire-retardant has become a major issue. While there has been a lot of media attention on the issue, clarity is still being sought. Prior to the tragedy, cladding and decorative work could be carried out without planning or building approval.

Proposed cladding reforms

The proposed changes will mean that in almost all cases cladding, re-cladding, and decorative work on external walls cannot be carried out as exempt development. The reforms include a draft regulation and an Explanation of Intended Effect. The public is invited to comment up until Friday 16 February 2018.

Also, this month the NSW Government announced new powers for the Commissioner of Fair Trading to stop the use of building products, such as cladding, considered unsafe in high rise residential buildings.

If your building has cladding

Buildings with cladding require independent expert assessment or approval by an accredited certifier.The Department of Planning and Environment conducted a desktop audit of buildings throughout NSW. The result is that many schemes have received a “Notice of intention to issue an Order” that requires representations to be made.

  • The first step is to engage a consultant (independent building surveyor category A1 and/or fire safety engineer category C0) within 28 days.
  • If the cladding is concrete based, then evidence to support the case is to be submitted as part of your representation.
  • If the cladding is aluminum based, then you then have 8 weeks for the consultant to prepare an audit report detailing compliance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA), recommendations to improve the fire safety or BCA compliance, the action plan and timeframes to implement the recommendations.

To-date the estimated cost of the above steps is between $5,000 to $10,000 pending the need to send samples to the CSIRO for analysis. Note that once the representations have been made, NSW Planning & environment issues a “stay” where the next timeframes are on hold.

In the event cladding cannot be made compliant
  • Within 28 days of submitting the report a fire safety engineer is to be engaged who in consultation with Fire & Rescue NSW, assesses the fire safety risk.
  • Within 8 weeks of engagement the fire safety engineer, an assessment report is to be submitted.


Local councils & cladding

Should your building receive a notification from your local council, it is recommended that you reply by providing them with the details of your correspondence with NSW Planning & Environment.

Practical implications of dealing with cladding

This is a new area of compliance so financially it is important to note that:

  • There has to-date been no budget considered (unless you have had an AGM in the last few months).
  • It is unlikely that cladding was given consideration in your last Capital Works Plan
  • It is a new area for consideration in insurance renewals, which has an impact to the premium payable.
  • Consideration should be given to different funding options well ahead of the final reports being completed.

From a governance perspective consideration should be given to

  • Sourcing the appropriately qualified consultants to provide quotations as soon as practicable
  • Convening proper meetings to enable the required timeframes to be met


What is the sector doing about cladding?

Strata Community Australia (SCA) NSW is aware of the implications on strata owners and is requesting a whole of government approach. Given the difficulty in dealing with the timeframes, coupled with the risk of high fines for “non-compliance”, and during a time where clarity is still to be obtained, SCA NSW has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation. The issue of cladding is also currently being considered at a national SCA summit.  The implications are nationwide even though the issue is being managed by state governments, and in some cases local councils.

If you have any questions on this topic please contact us.