Following the 2014 Lacrosse cladding fire, a shockwave was felt throughout the Australian cladding industry. With potentially millions of square metres of cladding needing replacement, Fairview is figuring out how to sustainably process the waste to avoid it from ending up in landfill.

We caught up with Ashley How, Technical Manager at Fairview.

Hi Ash, tell us about yourself, your experience and your current role at Fairview.

I am the Technical Manager here at Fairview, which involves heading up our Product Management and Research & Development teams, and also touches on industry engagement as well. As a company we pride ourselves on our technical knowledge and we have a strong focus on compliance and quality as a result of that.

I’ve been here for eight years, and in that time I’ve worked in both the Operations and Sales domains, so I’ve had plenty of market experience and plenty of physical product experience that inform my approach to the role I’m currently in.

Why is sustainability important to Fairview?

Being successful in business is about more than just making money. We have a social responsibility to make a better world. Facades and construction are a part of that, so we do our best to promote sustainability wherever we can.

And what is the situation in the broader cladding industry?

I think it’s fair to say that in the cladding industry there is currently a bit of a disconnect between sustainability and fire safety. What I mean is that the products that rate the best in terms of thermal performance and non-combustibility tend to have less sustainable practices involved in their manufacture. But particularly when you consider the high-profile cladding fires that have happened in the last few years, fire safety just has to take priority.

In a way, the cladding fires were a catalyst for Fairview’s journey towards more sustainable practices. Tell us about that.

In 2014, the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne shone a spotlight onto the use of combustible cladding on Australian buildings. The figures differ, but our guess is that there are 4,000-5,000 buildings in Australia that may have combustible cladding - amounting to somewhere in the region of 4 million square metres of cladding - and it all needs to be removed from buildings and replaced. All of this cladding is aluminium composite panel which is essentially a sheet of polyethylene (the flammable part), sandwiched between two pieces of aluminium.

We realised that there is no recycling process for this cladding; it’s all destined for landfill. That was where we saw an opportunity to really make a mark in cladding sustainability - by developing sustainable end of life processing. So we invested a lot of time and effort into developing Ecoloop, which is an industry and Australian first, to find ways to 100% sustainably process these panels as they come off buildings, and to find new uses for the components of the panels.

In terms of uptake, what are your hopes around the difference this could make to the industry?

We believe this can make a significant difference to standard industry practice, focusing on cladding initially, but we believe the Ecoloop process can be extended into a range of other sustainable applications. Our aim is to continue refining the process and educating building owners and builders about it. We hope to make the process as cost effective as possible, and even comparable to the main alternative - which is landfill. Ultimately we want to change behaviours and make it a no-brainer for people to choose EcoLoop.

The combustible panels that you aim to recycle were not made by Fairview, so in essence are you finding ways to clean up other people’s mess?

It’s not our product, but it’s our industry. We strongly believe all cladding businesses including ours will benefit from a better industry, and to that end we’ve spent a lot of time and money in building and sharing knowledge and collaborating wherever we can. So if you look at it that way then really it’s our responsibility to get stuck in and provide support to our industry - and the environment - wherever possible.

For more information, visit Fairview here.