Actions to be taken on Fire Safety in High Rise Buildings

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

At the Building Ministers' Forum (BMF) of 19 February 2016, Ministers agreed to work cooperatively to implement a range of measures to address safety issues associated with high risk building products, including a number to be undertaken by the ABCB.

Ministers agreed that the ABCB support measures to address the risks specifically associated with cladding used in high rise buildings and report back on proposed additional actions to address the wider issue of non-compliant use of building products.

These measures relate to the following:

Risks associated with cladding used in high rise buildings

1. Review the evidence of suitability provisions in Clause A2.2 of the NCC Volume One, which require that a product must be fit for purpose in its intended use, with a view to considering options that include mandatory accredited third party certification of cladding materials. This may lead to a change to the clause and would likely require a regulatory impact assessment.

2. Standards Australia, in consultation with the ABCB, industry and the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council, has developed a new Australian Standard (AS 5113) that will provide a more accurate indication of the fire combustibility of wall claddings and wall assemblies, including aluminium composite panel.

AS 5113 will be referenced in a new Verification Method that will enable industry to verify the fire performance of external cladding systems against the relevant Performance Requirement of the NCC. This will improve compliance, promote innovative solutions and ensure the required fire performance is achieved.

3. The Deemed to Satisfy Provisions of the NCC will continue to limit the use of combustible materials on external walls to buildings with a maximum of two storeys.

4. Review NCC provisions relating to the fire safety of external wall cladding and if necessary reword them to ensure they are more easily understood.

5. Develop and distribute a National Advisory Note on the appropriate selection and use of external wall cladding.

6. Develop education material on the appropriate selection and use of external wall cladding.

7. A draft Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement will be considered for release by the ABCB at its meeting on 3 March 2016, which covers a possible change to require sprinkler protection over covered balconies.

Non-compliant use of building product

8. Work with the Working Group of Senior Officers from the Commonwealth and the States to review NCC requirements related to high risk building products with a view to assessing the costs and benefits of mandating third party certification and establishing a national register for such products.

9. Develop a Product Assurance Handbook so the requirements of the evidence of suitability provisions of the NCC are understood.

10. CodeMark Certificates of Conformity will be made clearer as to what particular products can be used for, as part of a package of improvements to the voluntary building product certification scheme.

11 In consultation with industry, advise on the practicality and feasibility of improved voluntary product compliance labelling.

12. Working with the States and Territories to consider measures to enhance national regulatory harmonisation.

The BMF communique is available from the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.