The Grenfell Tower fire in the UK in June 2014, followed by a fire in November 2014, at the Lacrosse building in Docklands highlighted risks arising from the use of combustible and non-compliant cladding as external wall covering on buildings.
In July 2017 the Victorian State Government established the Victorian Cladding Taskforce to investigate the extent of combustible cladding on buildings, advise on the rectification of combustible cladding and recommend changes to the regulatory system. The City of Port Phillip was one of the first Councils to partner with the Victorian Cladding Taskforce in the audit of buildings.
What is cladding and why is it dangerous?
Cladding is the outside skin of a building. It is used to provide thermal insulation, weather resistance, and as an aesthetic element on buildings.
While there are numerous types and brands of cladding available, there are two types of combustible cladding. Please click on the following links for details on the types of combustible cladding typically found on buildings.
In the event of a fire, these materials may increase the rate at which a fire spreads, posing an increased risk.
Audits of buildings in the City of Port Phillip
The audit of buildings within the City of Port Phillip is currently being carried out by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). The types of building being audited by the VBA are apartment buildings, hotels, motels and student accommodation of three or more storeys. The audit program also includes hospitals, schools and aged care facilities of two or more storeys.
We are working with the VBA and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), in conjunction with owners corporations, owners and building practitioners to investigate, assess and take appropriate action to address the use of combustible cladding that poses a risk to the occupants of buildings and the general public.
Should you discover that your building incorporates combustible cladding please make contact with your Owners Corporation to establish if they are aware of the combustible cladding and any action taken to date to rectify the issue. You can also contact the VBA or our Building Department who can inform you of the next possible steps in the process.
For more information on the audit, including resources for residents, owners, owner’s corporations and building practitioners visit Victorian Cladding Audit at the VBA.
Cladding Safety Victoria
Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) was established by the Victorian Government to deliver a $600M investment to tackle the issue of combustible cladding on privately-owned residential apartment buildings across Victoria.
CSV may provide funding for the rectification of external wall combustible cladding of some higher risk buildings. If a building is found to be in a higher-risk category, it will be referred to CSV by the VBA as part of the audit and assessment process.
Please click on the following link the steps in the rectification process for more information about the CSV rectification program.
Fire Safety Tips
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of fire. The following information will help you improve your home’s fire safety:
- remove rubbish, clutter and flammable items from any balconies
- keep your balcony furniture away from exterior walls
- keep items one metre from air-conditioning units, including clothing that is on the balcony to dry
- ensure smoke alarms are not covered or disconnected and are tested each month. If smoke alarms have 9-volt batteries, it is critical they are replaced every year. Consider changing your smoke alarms to ones with a 10-year lithium battery
- do not use barbecues on balconies
- do not store gas bottles on balconies
- do not smoke on balconies
- know your buildings fire evacuation plan and be familiar with escape routes and escape procedures
- keep a dry powder fire extinguisher easily accessible in your home at all times. Use only in case of a small fire and if you feel physically and mentally able to combat the fire
- Ensure that the Essential Safety Measures (ESMs) of your building have been maintained and can operate effectively during an emergency. ESMs include items such as fire doors, exit doors, clear and unobstructed exit paths, illuminated exit signage, smoke detectors, sprinklers, hydrants, hosereels, fire extinguishers etc.
- call 000 in an emergency.
Please click on the following links for more information about fire safety in buildings
- Guidelines for fire safety on balconies (PDF)
- Fire Rescue Victoria's Home Fire Safety booklet.
- Gas safety Energy Safe Victoria.
Buying an apartment
Before you buy an apartment, you should make sure you carry out your due diligence with regards to combustible cladding.
Talk to the Owners Corporation and building manager and ask:
- if they know if combustible cladding is used on the building
- if any Building Notices, Building Orders or Emergency Orders have been issued
- if the insurer has made any enquiries about combustible cladding on the building and what the outcome of those enquiries were
- has an independent audit to identify combustible cladding been carried out.
You should contact the VBA who can provide details about whether a building has been audited or is due to be audited in the future. The City of Port Phillip building department can also assist with the status of the auditing process of particular buildings.
You should also have your solicitor or conveyancer review the contract of sale, Section 32 statement and the previous owners corporation minutes from Annual General Meetings to establish if there are any issues that relate to combustible cladding. Ensure that the information contained in these documents is current and up to date.
If you have any questions or uncertainties, please contact the Building team: