Flammable cladding debacle spreads to suburban homes

By Leith van Onselen

Australia’s dwelling construction industry is literally falling apart. After firefighters last month identified 10,000 buildings along Australia’s east coast with suspected flammable cladding, the fiasco has now spread to Australia’s suburbs, with nine more materials commonly used on low-rise dwellings also classified as non-compliant. From The ABC:

The alert affects an unknown number of dwellings, including single-storey family homes, which had previously been largely unaffected but are now not compliant with building codes.

Until now, most of the concern relating to non-compliant cladding was focused on flammable material used primarily on medium and high-rise buildings…

The VBA alert said the certification withdrawal meant nine types of cladding “cannot be relied upon as evidence of suitability”, meaning they would no longer be regarded as compliant with building codes…

The organisation’s vice president, Wayne Liddy, said the affected products were commonly used on small residential homes as well as high-rise apartments, meaning the impact would be felt throughout Australian cities and suburbs.

“It’s very alarming,” Mr Liddy said.

“It affects the industry as a whole. From high-rise to suburban housing.

“It’s not just aluminium composite panel, or ACP, it’s also expanded polystyrene, which is common in many buildings with fewer than three storeys.

“Many of these products thought to be compliant are no longer…

Phil Dwyer, national president of the Builders Collective of Australia… [said] “We’re in an incredible situation now where the industry is falling apart”…

The national general manager of building inspection company Roscon, Sahil Bhasin, estimated the certification changes could quadruple the number of building rectification orders issued in Melbourne.

“The majority of second-storey dwellings in all the outer suburbs are built from expanded polystyrene,” Mr Bhasin said.

“If you have a look at other places like Sydney’s outskirts, they would also be affected.

The scariest thing about this fiasco is that the Neo200 building, which caught alight earlier this month, was deemed only “moderate risk” and yet managed to catch alight from a cigarette. So what does this say about those buildings deemed “high risk”?

Policy makers have allowed the building of not just thousands of ‘slums in the sky’, but also shoddily built homes on the fringe, all to feed the business lobby migrant consumers and workers, and our universities international students.

Meanwhile, the Coalition and business lobby have spent years rallying against “redtape” as if it is some sort impediment to business, rather than necessary rules and regulations meant to stop shoddy building practices, the use of dangerous building materials, and the use of apartments as over crowded slums.

Australia desperately needs a royal commission into building standards and practices within the construction industry. When combined with the widespread defects discovered, there are major systemic issues here that desperately need thorough investigation.

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Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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  1. Everywhere you look Australia has dodgy practices but the highest house prices in the world. Too many things are seriously wrong in this country.

  2. Beyond the remediation cost (which is going to run me $1900 to strip out a bathroom and AC flooring and which cost $3k for about 40sqm of Hardiplank recently) I suddenly don’t feel so bad about my 1980 single story hardwood frame and Hardiplank house

    • I have asbestos in various places in my 80’s brick home and feeling quite good about it right now.

  3. All of this in a state where building codes are so absurdly strict due to Bush Fire Building Regulations that you can’t build a Humpy out of anything less than Kryptonite.

    It is truly corruption on a gargantuan scale.

    Regional rules in Victoria BAN any development on properties with less than 50 HA – 50 Hectares – outside of ring fenced development zones in towns 4 hours from the city. And the Bush Fire Overlay covers basically every single town in Victoria – except Greater Melbourne and Geelong – both of which have experienced bush fires.

    So if you want to build a few kilometers Deans Marsh – unless you have a hundred acres – TOUGH. Oh – and if you do – if must be built from double bricked, steel window, double glazed, north facing ONLY, mandatory water, energy, heat and solar saving devices, plus a bunker – all bought from Boral.

    Oh – you’re two meters within the development zone – ok fine – here – build with literally EXPLOSIVE expanded kerosene briquettes, without any thermal heating or cooling properties, or environmental issues at all – and yes its fine, you can build fifteen stories on that 4 square meter block on former market gardens !!

    • Forrest GumpMEMBER

      So true.

      I wanted to build in rural NSW town on the coast.

      The restrictions borne by Fire dept of NSW were such that:

      Of the entire standard house block, over 30% was considered flame zone and required me to build a freak’in bullet proof lame proof, radar proof, possum proof, elephant proof structure to withstand the energy of a 5 MT nuclear bomb.

      While the houses around me that were built over the previous 20 or so years are timber with ornate timber balcony’s overlooking a forest that sits only 2m from their fence line.

      I said to the council, the biggest threat that I face is not a bush fire, its protecting myself from the neighbors.

    • What?! But how would developers make over-sized profits? And from where would public sector officials get their kick-backs?

  4. Opal Tower builders used lower-strength concrete, beams burst under pressure

    “Some residents have vowed to never return to the apartments, some of which were originally valued at more than $2 million.”

    “The report criticised some of the technical information provided by those companies.”

    “We have noted that, at times, documentation has been unclear,” the report said.

    • Can anyone share current listings of apt’s for sale within Opal tower? are they fire-selling them yet?

    • Report actually pings the design engineer from what I’ve read. The construction issues seem to be more isolated than systemic.

  5. DefinitelyNotTheHorribleScottMorrisonPM

    Australian polystyrene houses are the best polystyrene houses and global investors know it.

    • watched a Kevin McCloud building adventure last night, expanded polystyrene framework built up walls, concrete pumped in. Floor, thick later of polystyrene implanted with underfloor heating coils and Timber floor floated on top. Home owners are being fed this polystyrene mindset. toxic when it burns.

  6. We don’t need another useless RC into building standards that will result in nil or minimal change like the banking one.
    We need suitable building codes written and enforced, like we used to have. No one needs an RC to work that out.

    • All these issues stem from the Big Australia programme. Best do a RC into that first and all these flow on issues would be addressed in time.

      • If you want issues fixed, then you need the government to fix the issues, not launch a distracting investigation into what might be wrong that they can ignore the results of into the future. There is no great secret about any of this stuff that requires the investigative powers of an RC to uncover, the info is all there if anyone is interested.

      • almost EVERY problem and inefficiency Australia is experiencing is either caused or exacerbated by the Big Australia programme FFS !!! this RC will take a decade to complete!! LOL #Straya

      • If parliament chose it could stop immigration in a few heartbeats, stop the Big Aus nonsense. When we have economic diversity of Zimbabwe and annoyed China so that leaves buggerall, only a year roughly into the worst drought since the first fleet and the whole of Aus affected by next year, food shortages water shortages and no let up to 2024 with decent rain in 2026….then off again probably, we could stop migrants now. Get rid of the one in four, one in five illegals.