How new timber cladding regulations will impact our industry
FWPA has raised concerns over the recent regulatory decision by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) that will see changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) regarding the use of timber cladding on three-storey apartment buildings. Under the new requirements, anybody seeking to install timber cladding on a three-storey building will be required to undergo a complex and costly approval process.
The change comes following the devastating façade fires on high-rise buildings including the Lacrosse building in Melbourne and Grenfell Tower in London, which led to public pressure for a review by politicians and regulators on the use of combustible cladding products on high-rise buildings.
Boris Iskra, National Codes & Standards Manager at FWPA, said the change for high-rise buildings is understandable, but the extension to low-rise apartment buildings will have a detrimental impact on the local wood products industry. Of key concern is that there has been no evidence presented of increased fire risk through the use of timber cladding.
“Unfortunately, the change impacts on the use of timber cladding on three-storey, low-rise apartment buildings, which has been a viable timber market in Australia over the past 20 years,’’ Mr Iskra said.
“There is a major difference in fire safety risk between a 30-storey, high-rise tower and a three-storey, low-rise building.”
According to Mr Iskra, the ABCB has not been receptive to industry representations around the ongoing
use of timber cladding on low-rise apartment buildings despite its low risk as a fire hazard. However, the ABCB has confirmed that it would review a future proposal-for-change from FWPA around timber cladding.
“The aim of this out-of-cycle amendment is to provide clarification of existing concessions for low-rise – Class 2 (apartment) and 3 (hotel/motel) - buildings which, if accepted, would effectively see the ‘banning’ of the use of timber cladding on 3-storey low-rise buildings under the Deemed-to-Satisfy provisions of the NCC,’’ he said.
“This would then require a developer or builder wishing to use timber cladding on a three-storey apartment building to engage the services of a fire engineer to prepare a Performance Solution, which can be costly and offers no guarantee of acceptance by a building surveyor or certifier.’’
Public consultation has been completed and comments are now being considered by the ABCB.