Safety the First Consideration for Lacrosse Residents

Posted on : Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) says the Victorian Building Appeals Board (BAB) determination to uphold the orders of the Melbourne City Council Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) to remove the cladding on the Lacrosse Apartments is appropriate and aligns with the Association's calls to put safety first.

 

Lacrosse Apartments in Melbourne's Docklands precinct made international news following a major fire in November 2014. The blaze, which the Metropolitan Fire Brigade's (MFB) investigation showed was started by a discarded cigarette, was dramatically exacerbated by the non-compliant use of an aluminium composite external wall cladding.

 

The MFB investigation confirmed that the cladding used was combustible and was not compliant when used as it was.

"This fire could so easily have been a tragedy. We are just lucky it wasn't," said FPA Australia CEO Scott Williams.

 

"Safety is the first consideration and removing all the cladding and replacing it with a non-combustible product was always the safest option. The BAB's determination, to dismiss a proposal to instead retain and protect the cladding with a wall wetting sprinkler system recognises that fires on a buildings' external façade are difficult to control. It reinforces why the National Construction Code requires non-combustible external walls on a building like this."

 

In light of the issues reviewed by the BAB, Mr Williams encouraged the MBS to review his decision to allow ongoing occupation of the building without further, albeit temporary, risk mitigation measures beyond relying on Lacrosse residents keeping their balconies clear from debris and potential fire risks.

 

"While the combustible cladding is still there, the fire risk is heightened whether the balconies are cleared or not.  Over two years ago at Lacrosse we had a dramatic demonstration of the potential for fire spread and this potential remains with combustible cladding remaining on the building's outer walls. What has changed? Occupant safety must be paramount," Mr Williams said.

 

"Owners have a right to feel let down by the system that has failed to protect them from this situation.  Recent changes to the Building Act are encouraging regarding industry reform at large, but these changes still don't treat the core issues of education and enforcement and clearly there is much more to be done.

 

"The Andrews' Government needs to look closely at how to improve the system and improve consumer protection."

 

To view the full determination click here