Building Cladding – Your responsibilities as an owner

1 October 2020
By Jeff

Cladding is designed as a highly functional, aesthetic building component. Designed to meet acoustic and thermal requirements, minimize wind penetration and ultimately add to the overall aesthetic design, cladding is a versatile building component which has the added bonus of costing a fraction of adding each of those components in isolation.
However, as has been widely documented in the press given a number of dangerous building fires, cladding which does not meet the BCA’s requirements and which is thus nominated as defective cladding needs to be replaced or removed.
But what are your obligations, what do you need to do, know and by when does it all need to happen? In this piece we break it all down for you including whether you need to register your building.

What is external cladding?

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If we boil it down (no pun intended) and take a look at the defective cladding which caused the fires so widely covered in the news, the cladding was generally made of composite materials that together act as a particularly combustible mix. Generally it was a Composite cladding fixture which was made of a thin layer of combustible material acting as the core, and which is sandwiched between aluminium sheets
So that is the layman’s explanation, but let’s get technical for a moment: The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment defines external combustible cladding, in relation to a building, as:

  • 1. any cladding or cladding system comprising metal composite panels, including aluminium, zinc and copper, that is applied to any of the building’s external walls or to any other external area of the building, or
  • any insulated cladding system, including a system comprising polystyrene, polyurethane or polyisocyanurate, that is applied to any of the building’s external walls or to any other external area of the building.

What compliant cladding look likes

Ok so now we know what non-compliant (figuratively) looks like In Australia, let’s discuss compliant cladding, albeit, if you are interested in learning more about the minimum performance standards for external cladding, you can via the National Construction Code (NCC), which covers the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in Volume One and Two. And if you are in NSW check out the Combustible Cladding Regulation.
Cladding is considered to be an integral element of the external wall so when it comes to structural performance, thermal performance, weather suitability, non-combustibility and, Fire Resistance Level (FRL), the NCC requirements for an external wall applies.
Under the NCC, the Deemed-to-Satisfy (DtS) requirements for external walls of Type A and Type B (classification with respect to fire resistance) buildings must be non-combustible. The NCC, however, allows for the use of plasterboard, fibrous-plaster sheet, fibre-reinforced cement sheeting, Volcore (mineral wool), and other materials that may be combustible in their own right, as long as they are within acceptable levels of fire safety.

What to do if your building has a combustible cladding
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Let’s just summarise again why cladding is a trigger topic: We are talking about the Lacrosse Building fire in Melbourne in 2014, the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, the and the 2019 Neo 200 tower fire in Melbourne. All three garnered worldwide attention due to the problem this represents.
In light of these tragic events, the Australian government has laid out new laws requiring buildings with combustible cladding to be registered. In NSW, existing building owners were required to have registered their building by 2019 (and new building owners within 4 months of completion) via the NSW Cladding Registration portal if your building belongs to any of the following:

    • Has 2 storeys or more
    • An apartment building
    • Other accommodation for unrelated people (examples include hotels, motels, boarding house, hostel, backpackers [1], residential parts of a school or accommodation buildings for children, the elderly or people with a disability)
    • An aged care building or healthcare building, hospital, clinic or day surgery
    • Public assembly building where people may gather for social, theatrical, political, religious or civil purposes (examples include schools, universities, childcare centres, sporting facilities, cinemas, nightclubs, public transport buildings).
    • Building with metal composite panels or insulated cladding system on any part of its external walls or another external area of the building
    • An apartment/strata unit, within the building

Keep in mind that this new law is not applicable to houses and does not currently apply to “… offices, shops, warehouses, carparks, factories and other commercial buildings although they may be included at a later stage.”

When should you register?

As the building owner, you need to register your building in the cladding register within four months after your building is first occupied. If you’re not available, your strata manager or your authorised agent can register the building on your behalf. Keep in mind that for every building, only one registration is allowed.
If you fail to register your building within the given deadline, you will be fined $3000 (for corporations) or $1500, if you’re an individual.
When registering, you need to provide information on the type of external combustible cladding you’re using, number of storeys, the approximate percentage of cladding, the elevations where the cladding is used, and several other questions of this nature.
After providing the necessary details, your data will be forwarded to the FRNSW and the local council, who may conduct further assessments and impose fire safety orders for remedial actions to mitigate fire safety risks.

Making your cladding compliant

Even if your building is subject to a fire safety order, you still need to register your building. Doing so will help you know if your structure poses numerous fire risks associated with the metal cladding. Once assessed, you will be able to do rectification works in accordance to the councils’ development approval process. This is where we can help. We have a team of specialists who excel in bringing a building up to compliance and in helping assess the options for the replacement of combustible cladding.
Remember it is your responsibility as a building owner to make sure your structure is safe for your tenants and employees. If you need help with your structural cladding needs and making sure they are compliant with NCC and AS regulations, engage the services of building repair experts like our team. Consult with the Remedial team today.