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    Insurers push architects for answers over past cladding installs

    Branko Miletic

    Architecture firms are being forced to audit their own past building projects, thanks to insurers threatening to withdraw insurance cover after the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London and the 2014 Lacrosse apartments blaze in Melbourne.

    However, this continues to be a near-taboo subject for many local architects – some of who would not comment on the issue as the possibility of having to go as far back as 15 years to find out whether any cladding products they specified could fail fire safety requirements would create a professional indemnity liability scenario of massive proportions.

    But not doing anything may also have its risks, with the peak body for Australia's building certifiers warning its members that some professional indemnity insurers were imposing exclusions to building that [potentially carried non-compliant cladding.

    Speaking to the ABC recently, Campbell Fuller from the Insurance Council of Australia said that some insurers will refuse to cover buildings and apartments covered in potentially flammable cladding materials.

    "Buildings that do have these flammable materials are certainly going to struggle to get insurance," he told the ABC.

    While the NSW government earlier this year passed the Home Building Compensation (HBC) Scheme, a mandatory insurance scheme which builders are required to take out for residential building work over $20,000 to cover for defects and non-completion, with homeowners entitled to $340,000 of cover for each product, the broader building insurance industry remains skittish about the issue of flammable cladding.

    In some ways, architects and building surveyors have found themselves in the same boat, with the Australian Institute of Architects CEO Jennifer Cunich telling Fairfax media yesterday that many firms "…have been making calls to insurance companies”. 

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