Fire safety regulation is currently a hot-button issue in the global design and construction industry. With highly flammable cladding having played a significant role in a number of recent disasters – namely the Lacrosse and Grenfell tower fires – increased scrutiny has been placed on the fire performance requirements applicable to building materials used on multi-storey and multi-use buildings.

In Australia, recent building audits conducted by State and Territory governments found that a large number of existing buildings feature highly flammable cladding. Earlier this year, the Queensland government found that 1200 buildings feature cladding that places them “at risk”, while in New South Wales 412 buildings fell into the same category. Other State governments will continue their audits throughout the year.

With State and Territory governments displaying greater zeal in enforcing fire performance requirements on building construction, the pressure now is on the design and construction industry to develop solutions that meet the strict fire resistance requirements for building materials specified by the National Construction Code (NCC) in Australia while delivering quality, aesthetics and – most importantly – performance. This is no easy task, with multi-storey building projects placing increasingly onerous demands on cost, resources, and time: a situation exacerbated by a web of standards, regulations and codes which are complex and often difficult to understand.

Aliwood Cladding and Screening systems deliver solutions that are compliant with Australian fire safety standards, codes and regulations without compromising on versatility, ease-of-use and performance, especially when compared to traditional materials such as timber.

Fire safety regulation in Australia

It is important for designers and specifiers to understand the fire performance requirements contained in the NCC, specifically Volume One of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) in relation to multi-storey, multi-use buildings. The BCA Volume One includes the minimum performance requirements for external cladding. According to industry guidance issued by the Victorian Building Authority, when cladding forms part of an external wall system and contributes to the functionality of that wall, it is subject to the fire performance requirements set out in the BCA. 

The key takeaway of these provisions is that external walls, and therefore external cladding, must be “non-combustible”. To be considered non-combustible, materials must pass the testing regime contained in AS1530.1 – Methods of fire tests on building materials, components and structures: combustibility test for materials or be included in the list of materials in C1.9 (e) of the BCA Volume One, which sets out materials that contain some combustible elements but are within acceptable levels of fire safety. It is important to note that external walls must not be constructed even in part of combustible materials. In other words, the entire wall must be non-combustible; otherwise it is treated as combustible under the BCA. 

Other relevant provisions in the BCA include the Performance Requirement CP2, which provides that a building must have elements that will avoid the spread of fire. Other relevant testing regimes found in a variety of Australian Standards provide further guidelines in relation to fire testing on building materials, components and structures, in addition to tests to determine ignitability, heat release and smoke release.

Compliance plus performance

According to a report by Australian firm Longitude Insurance, the aluminium composite panels used in the Lacrosse and Grenfell towers have been in use for approximately fifty years. However, it was not until the 1990s that heightened demand for architectural performance and reduced construction costs saw the popularity of the panels markedly increase. 

In an industry where high performance cannot come at the cost of safety, Aliwood offers cladding and screening solutions that are built to meet Australian standards and overcome the drawbacks of traditional materials for a number of applications. Aliwood specialises in aluminium wood products with a durable wood grain look or powder coat finish that is suitable for residential and commercial projects alike. The company’s broad catalogue also contains solutions for aged care facilities, educational institutions, shopping centres, and fit outs.

Crucially, Aliwood products are non-combustible and therefore compliant with the fire performance requirements in the BCA. They carry none of the fire risks associated with timber in addition to offering resistance to mould, rot, and pests. Additionally, while timber requires regular maintenance including painting and staining, Aliwood products require virtually zero maintenance, making them an economical timber substitute. Aliwood products also come in a variety of colours and finishes, allowing them to provide the broad aesthetic appeal of timber while overcoming a number of its drawbacks. Beyond this, all products in the Aliwood catalogue are versatile and easily installed.      

The Aliwood Cladding system is a non-combustible cladding option that is supplied with various trims, flashing, and other design features to ensure compatibility with commercial and residential applications alike. The system can be installed horizontally or vertically and delivers the natural look of timber in conjunction with outstanding fire resistance and suitability for housing, sheds, and feature walls. 

Available in the 15mm and 50mm Clip on Series, the Aliwood Screening system is a BCA-compliant solution suitable for buildings, renovations and extensions both indoors and outdoors. The system provides fast and easy concealed fix installation of aluminium slat extrusions and can be orientated to suit a variety of projects and requirements. 

Aliwood products are stringently tested and certified and manufactured to Australian Standards, meaning that they pass the relevant tests for non-combustibility. Aliwood materials are certified by the CSIRO to pass the testing regimes in AS/NZS 1530.1: 1994 Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Combustibility test for materials; AS/NZS 1530.3: 1999 Methods for Fire Tests on Building Materials, Components and Structures – Part 3: Simultaneous Determination of Ignitability,Flame Propagation, Heat Release and Smoke Release and AS/NZS 3837: 1998 Method of test for heat and smoke release rates for materials. Aliwood Cladding and Screening are also certified in accordance with the performance requirements in relation to aluminium structures withstanding wind actions. 

Find more information about Aliwood here.