A tribunal has ruled Lacrosse Tower builder LU Simon is not responsible for the use of combustible cladding that contributed to a fire in the Melbourne apartment building in 2014.

While the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered the builder to pay apartment owners $5.75 million in damages, architect Elenberg Fraser, building surveyor Gardner Group and fire engineer Thomas Nicolas have been ordered to reimburse the builder and pay an additional $6.8 million to replace the cladding.

The builder may have installed the combustible cladding that went against the Australian Building Code, but judge Ted Woodward says the company did not fail to exercise reasonable care in the construction of Lacrosse tower.

Based on the judge’s ruling, Gardner Group must bear 33 percent liability for the damages claim, Elenberg Fraser 25 percent and Thomas Nicolas 39 percent. Jean-Francois Gubitta, whose cigarette triggered the fire, will bear a three percent liability, but no order has been made against him.

Final orders will be handed out next week, after which there will be a six-week window to appeal the judgement.

“This is a landmark decision with significant ramifications right across the building and construction sector,” says national president of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), Clare Cousins.

“The central message appears clear … that safety is everyone’s responsibility.

“Like any other industry, building design and construction is constantly evolving and innovating, both in terms of practices but also the materials used. Our regulatory environment and the building practitioners who operate within it, including architects, must keep pace with these changes.

“That’s why we have been calling for the registration and regulation of other building practitioners in the same way architects have been for decades. We will be carefully reviewing the implications of the VCAT decision for the architectural profession.”

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