The Melbourne Lacrosse fire of 2014 and the recent Grenfell Tower blaze in London are both examples of the consequences of specifying combustible cladding products on high rise constructions. While the latest tragic incident in London has once again brought focus back to the issue of using non-compliant cladding, it is also serving to underline the importance of ensuring only non-combustible materials are used in building projects.

However, despite all the discussions that took place in the aftermath of the Lacrosse fire, little has changed to prevent a repeat incident. It is estimated that 2700 buildings in Sydney use the same type of cladding as that of the Lacrosse fire, and half of those built in Melbourne in the past decade are non-compliant.

How can you ensure compliance and safety when you are designing, constructing or renovating a building? How do you know which cladding is safe to use from the many different types of aluminium cladding available with varying levels of combustibility?

It is believed that the type of cladding in both fires was aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core, which are often used for thermal regulation but are highly flammable. By itself, aluminium is a non-combustible material, but the core make-up can determine the level of flammability.

There are two types of fire-retardant cladding: inherent and treated. Inherently fire-retardant cladding will be non-combustible for the life of the product, whereas treated fire-retardant cladding will only be non-combustible for the life of the treatment. Non-flammable timber cladding is usually treated as it is not inherently fire-retardant.

The safest course of action is to choose a cladding product that has been tested to AS/NZS1530.3 and AS/NZS3837. These tests are based on radiant heat, determine ignitability, heat and smoke release, and ensure that the spread of fire will be minimised.

Both DecoClad and DecoBatten from Decorative Imaging are non-combustible and have been independently tested to Australian Standards 1531.3 and 3837.