Flammable Cladding – Property Developers Continue to Cut Corners

Flammable Cladding – Property Developers Continue to Cut Corners

Flammable Cladding – Property Developers Continue to Cut Corners

Highly Flammable ‘Death Trap’ Cladding

Developers Cut Keep Corners for Personal Profits

The flammable cladding material often found in buildings is a safety risk, but promoting fire safety is less a priority. The systems that were originally put in place to solve this problem are not good enough and we need to rethink our approach. Modern buildings are being developed with the focus on the safety of the building and its occupants, not the environment.

 

The flammability of modern facade materials has led to an increasing number of fires worldwide, among other defects. That is why my colleagues and I have set up an online database that provides insights into the extravagance of different facade materials. Facade materials that use modern rain protection systems on the outside of a building protect the building from rain, wind and sun and provide insulation. Architects can also create interesting designs by adding bright colours and curves to the exterior.

 

Examples include the construction of high-rise buildings in London, New York, Paris and other cities, as well as some of the most expensive buildings in the world.

 

Many of the facade materials currently used are combustible to varying degrees, including glass, steel, concrete, aluminium, wood, glass and other materials. Some have a core material based on a plastic such as polyethylene and aluminum sheets that are glued to the sides. Over 130,000 people subscribe to our free, evidence-based news on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and our other social media channels.

 

About 18,000 buildings are considered flammable and have been tested for flammability by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

 

In 75% of cases, no further action was required and in the remaining 25%, engineers were hired to investigate whether these problems occurred.

 

The Queensland government estimates that between 100 and 200 buildings need to be made safe, with the cost of working on a single building potentially reaching $10 million. Flammable cladding does not necessarily mean that a building is dangerous, but it is important to note that buildings with flammable cladding must have well maintained fire doors and facilities to minimise the risk. Such materials should only be included if architects, engineers and contractors understand the risks involved.

 

This database, the first of its kind created by me and my colleagues, provides information on the use of flammable cladding in building construction in Queensland and across the country.

 

The fire’s facade revealed the use of flammable cladding as building material in a number of buildings across Queensland and across the country. The same material is used in many other buildings, whether residential, commercial, office, residential or commercial. Read more about this in the current issue of the Australian Building and Construction Journal, which can be printed here.

 

Identifying the material is not as easy as understanding how it behaves in the event of a fire. To determine exactly which material was most important, small tests were performed on samples measuring 10 cm.

 

Over the course of one year, over 1,100 small material samples were taken from the building and detailed tests were carried out on about 30 test materials. A wide range of materials was selected to ensure that the most common were represented in the selection. For this reason, a total of 20 materials were used, which are usually found on the outside of buildings. Subsequently, 75 unique coating materials were identified and reduced to 9,250 tests conducted over the course of a year.

 

In experiments, the heat action of the materials was controlled and the amount of heat was changed to see how the samples reacted. This included measuring the time it took the material to ignite, the number of fires, the heat emitted by the material, the release of heat and the spread of the flames. The results are now publicly available in the Facade Materials Library, which can be updated as new materials are invented.

 

This database helps fire engineers to effectively assess the potential fire risk of a building and can be used to determine how the building as a whole might behave during a fire.

 

The fire engineers involved in such investigations must also be continuously trained to update their knowledge of the fire hazard and fire hazards of the building.

 

The latter is important for the success of the project, as it enables the construction experts to understand the existing problems reported by the engineers. Finally, the fire engineer hired by a government or contractor will immediately make changes to the building in question to improve short-term safety and make recommendations to improve long-term building safety, which could cost more time and money. This is the conclusion of a training course designed by the University of Queensland and a similar course is being developed by the Queensland Government.

 

The only way to solve the problem of fire risk is to understand how the building works and to make changes to the design, construction and maintenance of buildings and the construction of new buildings. This research will represent a changed approach to solving this problem and hopefully help prevent fires in the future.

 

One recurring theme in the Australian Building Commission’s latest report is that in mid-2017, federal, state and territory ministers commissioned Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir to assess the effectiveness of building codes in Australia. Confidence in the quality of building codes has waned, and the combined powers of all nine governments have made little progress in implementing the report’s 24 simple recommendations. The confidence report was presented to ministers in February 2018 and to the Prime Minister in February 2019.

 

Get our free, independent, evidence-based message: get in touch with the Australian Building Commission on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. As revealed in Four Corners, Weir was asked on the show if she would buy an apartment, and she replied: ‘Yes, I would.

 

Their comments are fair and correct, but they may not have the same effect on developers trying to sell new homes as they do on owners selling existing ones. If I had the opportunity to build in this country in the last two or three decades, I would have to buy an old one.

 

We can only restore confidence if the government acts together to improve regulatory oversight and deal with existing defective buildings. Neocolonial buildings like those in New York City are already suffering the effects of legacy: homes have been evacuated, houses foreclosed, and real estate values are plummeting.

 

Fire risks have been known for years and fixing them is a costly business. If a building is covered with flammable materials and behaves in this way, it should be considered unsafe (read more).

In Australia, residents have been evacuated from an apartment building in Mordialloc, Melbourne, after it was found to pose an extreme fire risk.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling found the cost of structural repairs averaged $150,000 per unit. At Mascot Towers, engineers estimated the total cost of repairing structural defects and fire risk at an average of $36,000 per unit. According to the UNSW Deakin study, more than half of all residential buildings in Australia with at least 50 units have significant defects.

 

The average cost of fixing these defects is only $25,000 per unit, but let’s assume 85% have such defects. That would mean the total cost of building defects and fire risk in Australian homes could exceed $10 billion.

 

The Victorian government has taken the lead on combustible cladding by launching a $600 million program to replace it. The Victorian government funds and funds the construction of low-lying school buildings, which must be replaced as soon as they comply with the letter of the State and Building Code.

 

No one looking at the images of the fire in Melbourne’s CBD could doubt how dangerous flammable cladding can be. This allowed the fire to spread rapidly in the building and other states have followed suit. This is worrying, given the risk of life, but no one could have doubted the significance of this decision, especially in light of recent events in London.

 

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade has identified suburbs less than 10 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD as bushfire danger zones.

 

The Victorian system was to be immediately copied by other states and territories, and the German government’s response was inadequate. Although not perfect and probably underfunded, this is a positive step towards improving public safety. We congratulate the Andrews Government on their practical work, while the Government of Germany, where many buildings are fitted with flammable cladding, are much slower to take appropriate action.