With the materials on our existing buildings declining, the risk of fire within these dwellings reaching catastrophic levels.

A recent report commissioned by Construction Union Australia has more than 3,400 buildings with flammable cladding, highlighting the need for governments and cladding entities to move swiftly to remedy these issues. As witnessed with London’s Grenfell Tower blaze that saw 72 people lose their lives, the need to replace existing cladding systems on our older buildings is of the utmost importance. 

State governments nationwide are looking to move swiftly to reduce any risk associated with these buildings and flammable cladding material. The Berejiklian Government last year announced Project Remediate, a three-year program designed to assist businesses with the financial and technical support required to manage the process of replacing combustible cladding on private high rises across the state. This was followed up by an announcement made last month that will see work commence on removing combustible cladding from the 214 high-rise, high risk residential buildings in Sydney later this year. The NSW Government also provided recommendations on replacement products for the buildings to use in refurbishments under the government’s remediation program.

South of the border, the Victorian Government this year banned the use of ACP and EPS external wall cladding, two high-risk cladding products, on all future multi-storey developments and other residential buildings. Queensland have also issued cladding regulations to ensure buildings are safe from the fire risk.

Companies like SHAPE Australia, a nationwide refurbishment and fitout entity, are beginning the process of recladding at-risk buildings with newer, safer cladding alternatives. 

SHAPE Project Director Sam Ciccia — a specialist in the cladding department — says the company is intent on implementing safer cladding measures across a range of ageing buildings nationwide.

“The dangers of having this unsafe cladding on buildings risk to human safety, other apparent fire risks triggered changes to compliance laws. SHAPE has been making it an increasing focus to work toward providing and refitting safe cladding materials for high-risk buildings,” he says.

“In Australia, the combustible aluminium composite panelling (ACP) with highly flammable polyethylene cores have faced scrutiny and nationwide investigations after this type of cladding was blamed for accelerating the spread of the Neo200 apartment building fire in Melbourne in 2019. This fire saw one man taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and at least 200 residents evacuated.”

Grenfell Tower Fire

SHAPE was recently involved with replacing existing cladding on two A-grade buildings for Altis Property Partners in Rhodes. The lifespan of the project was approximately 30 weeks, with SHAPE overseeing the quotation process all the way through to delivery. SHAPE’s specialised façade team were tasked with the project, specifically overseeing any cladding or recladding assignments given to them by clients.

The partnership between Altis and SHAPE is only beginning its tenure. To go with the recent re-cladding project in Rhodes, SHAPE have been asked by Altis to complete another cladding project at two commercial buildings managed by Altis in St Leonards.

Tammy Callaghan, Altis Property Partners’ Director, says the move to safer cladding is a cost effective one, that also adds to the facade of dwellings with stylistic capabilities.

“We undertook this particular cladding project to ensure we are providing a safe environment for our tenants and to help lower our outgoing costs such as high insurance premiums that are associated with outdated cladding. The replacement of the ACP cladding on our buildings in Rhodes allowed us to strategically position and uplift our existing assets under management on behalf of our investors,” she says.

Melbourne apartment fire cladding

Cladding itself is a straightforward procedure that is not as pedantic as one might think. But as Ciccia tells us, there’s a range of variables from clients to the general area that may cause headaches that will prevent us from overhauling ageing buildings immediately.

“The replacement of cladding on any buildings is a straightforward exercise as all buildings typically follow the same procedure, however each building has different requirements for noise and disruption pending building owners/tenants expectations. This is where SHAPE customises the replacement of combustible cladding to suit each building’s individual needs. Owners will also tend to have a preference of what materials they would like their existing cladding to be replaced with, which all depends on their budget,” Ciccia explains.