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Industry calls for restrictions on combustible cladding on high-rises

Industry bodies have called on the Federal Government to review the National Construction Code (NCC) and restrict the use of combustible materials in high-rise construction following a recent fire on Spencer Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), Think Brick Australia, and Concrete Masonry Association of Australia (CMAA) have come together to urge politicians to tighten the standards expressed in the NCC to keep the community safe.

CCAA chief executive officer Ken Slattery said seeing residents and first responders put at risk by a fire at a high-rise building with Grenfell-style cladding was deeply concerning.

“Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, a Senate inquiry raised serious concerns about the widespread use of non-compliant combustible cladding, and yet very little appears to have been done to make high-rise buildings safer in the event of a fire,” Slattery said.

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“The most effective way to provide absolute protection to residents and the brave men and women in the fire service is to ban combustible materials from being used in high-rise construction.”

Think Brick Australia and CCMA group chief executive Elizabeth McIntyre said the current proposed NCC changes further weaken fire safety standards for buildings with an effective height of up to 25 metres.

“The standards expressed in the NCC should be tightened, not placing the community at greater risk by opening up the code to the increased use of combustible products,” she said.

“As well as being non-combustible, concrete and masonry products don’t release toxic fumes during a fire, and because of their relatively slow rate of heat transfer, they act as a heat shield to protect building occupants.

“The simple fact is that concrete and masonry don’t burn. No other materials are as safe or reliable as concrete and masonry in the event of a fire,” McIntyre said.

Fire protection Association Australia’s Deputy CEO Matthew Wright will travel to Hobart to the Building Minister’s Forum (BMF) to renew its call for recommendations of the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report to be implemented nationally.

Wright said the report sets out a clear roadmap to address the problems with building compliance in June, but they haven’t seen any affirmative action at a consistent state and territory or national level.

“At the moment, every time Australians buy an apartment they are playing Russian roulette when it comes to compliance, even if that apartment is brand new. To stop that happening, we need the Shergold-Weir recommendations to be implemented consistently across the country,” Wright said.

“Someone in Sydney deserves their home to be as safe as someone in Melbourne or Perth or Darwin.

“Industry has to be part of the compliance fix, and we’re pushing ahead in a range of areas. But to truly address this issue and deliver the buildings Australians deserve, government needs to be as dedicated to this as we are.”

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