Fire-prone cladding on Vic CBD buildings

More than 20 high-rise Melbourne residential buildings and the Royal Women’s Hospital are still covered in potentially flammable cladding more than 12 months after a safety audit.


It is similar to the cladding that fuelled London’s deadly Grenfell Tower fire.

The Victorian Building Authority’s audit, released last year, found half of 170 high-rise residential apartments in Melbourne’s CBD and surrounding suburbs had non-compliant cladding.

Twenty-six buildings are still listed on the VBA’s non-compliance list a year later, including a building at Royal Freemasons Homes of Victoria and at the University of Melbourne.

Cladding is being removed at the Royal Women’s Hospital, which the VBA says is safe to occupy.

VBA chief executive Prue Digby said the hospital’s developer was working “to achieve compliance on that building”.

A Department of Health and Human services spokesman said 12 per cent of the exterior of the building was cladding but only a small amount of that would need to be removed.

He said the builder Lendlease would replace the cladding at no cost to the taxpayer in spring, and test panels had been successfully installed in May.

Ms Digby said although the non-compliant cladding remained on some CBD buildings, installing sprinklers and escape routes could make a building compliant with fire safety laws.

“Non-compliance can take various forms, you may have some buildings with a small amount of decorative aluminium composite panel, it may be on the third level and it is a low-level risk,” she said.

“It is still non-compliant, but the building is safe to occupy.

“Cladding is only one one part of that. It has failed in terms of the non-compliance we have found, but it does mean the other measures equal safety.”

The VBA’s audit was sparked after the Lacrosse building in Melbourne’s Docklands caught fire in 2014, and the owners and builders L.U. Simon have been ordered to remove its cladding by July 2018.

The Grocon-built AAMI Park sports stadium – where spectators occasionally light flares – had cladding stripped from the walls and roof in December 2015, and a small amount on the scoreboard was replaced in early 2016.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said a fire like London’s would not happen in Australia as we had the “strongest building codes really of any first world country”.