A Guide to Combustible Cladding

Combustible cladding on properties is a daunting prospect, with many owners and building managers still struggling on how to go forward. Changing requirements in each state and territory can challenge even the most seasoned experts. Navigating the environment of inspections, assessments, tests and compliance considerations is complex so it is no surprise that property owners are distressed about the future of their investment.

Aside from the obvious safety risks, combustible cladding can have a significant impact on a property’s value. While financial risk and funding seem to be the primary consideration for many of those affected, it is important to not lose focus on the most important aspect: safety. Some deadlines imposed by the various states for remediation extend into 2021, and while this gives building owners time to raise levies or raise funds, it does not address claddingrelated safety risks.

Compliance with deadlines can give the perception of a responsible approach, but it should not be the sole consideration. The provision of a safe building to occupants is fundamental in strata, so if any combustible cladding has been identified, a duty of care exists to take action and reduce risks.

At Sedgwick Australia, when combustible cladding has been identified on a building, a six-step approach including evaluation and remediation process is undertaken which includes:

1. Preliminary Investigations

This begins with detailed site inspections and audits of any documentation available, such as plans, specifications, certificates and project schedules. Testing to confirm the flammability of suspected materials is also undertaken.

2. Invasive Inspection

If combustible material has been identified, a Fire Engineer will undertake an assessment of the building to understand and address any risks. Removal of cladding panels to reveal the wall build-up, including battens, insulation, sarking and cavity barriers is then undertaken.

3. Design and Scope

It is critical at this stage to address all design considerations if the cladding is being replaced. This would include a compliant replacement material and address design implications, such as structural, waterproofing, acoustic, thermal and fire. These elements, along with any building approvals, must be incorporated within the design and scope of work.

4. Cost and Project Plan

Once the full extent of work is outlined, a budget can be established and a project plan formulated. This provides a clearer understanding of owners/building managers on the impact of the works.

5. Risk and Governance

Competitive tendering is undertaken to satisfy the Strata Schemes Management Act where two or more builders are required. A building contract is then established to ensure maximum protection and risk allocation.

6. Remediation Works

Planning and staging are required to minimise impact to occupants, and quality control is monitored to ensure project requirements are fit for purpose and comply with any statutory requirements.

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