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Combustible Cladding – Compliance, Challenges and Risks

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CIBSE SA brought in the big guns for guidance on the most talked about topic relating to façade cladding after the failures of Lacrosse Melbourne and Grenfell Tower in London.

The risks, challenges and compliance for combustible cladding was presented at the November technical seminar. A diverse panel from SA Metropolitan Fire Service, Katnich Dodd Building Certifiers and Adelaide City Council Fire Safety Committee offered perspectives on firefighting and building compliance.
Presentations from all speakers are available to view:

Nages Karuppiah – SA Metropolitan Fire Service

Composite Cladding - The Building Surveyor experience
Ian Dodd - Katnich Dodd Building Certifiers

SA Life Safety Risk Analysis
Bernie Steer – Adelaide City Council Fire Safety Committee

Key messages to take away from each presentation as follows:
Testing regimes for aluminium composite panel (ACP) walling are covered under AS5113 for having a facade accepted for external wall compliance. Other tests, such as in the UK, provide only the methodology and not specific test result pass criteria or expectations hence reference to overseas tests does not match what is required for Building Code of Australia compliance. The BCA also has deemed-to-satisfy (dts) and verification methods that can be adopted.

Nages Karuppiah raised the risks in terms of fire-fighting. Attending crews are subject to danger or challenges as a result of ACP due to building/equipment ground level access, falling debris,  “snorkel” extension coverage dependent on appliance location and the need to cover health of personnel who may be subject to long term fire-fighting and search/rescue, due to the any serious façade burning.

Ian Dodd, Katnich Dodd Building Certifiers, provided a precis of the Building Code requirements since inception and the changes that have been made to definitions of wall panels and their use leading up to the out of sequence Code revision in 2015 resulting from the fires of Lacrosse, Melbourne and Grenfell Towers, London. Codemark certification was referred to as the main means of permitting certification of specific problems but these are now proving inadequate with disclaimers now being issued. Irrespective of such approval for a specific product on a building, the revisions that have been made for alternatives without further approval submission or review will cause considerable complication as to who was responsible legally for construction. Of concern is that some buildings are still being proposed for use of ACP despite all the evidence and new Code compliance, which requires a hard line to be taken by Certifiers in the approval process. 
Bernie Steer, Adelaide City Council Fire Safety Committee, advised on the National approach to reviewing existing buildings and specifically within his jurisdiction for Adelaide City Building Fire Safety. Using a risk assessment tool for all buildings that have curtain wall construction or attached panels. This does not relate to Building Code compliance but rather a risk assessment of existing buildings for occupant safety aimed primarily at residential accommodation including aged care and hospitals with a low, high or extreme result after analysis. The types of ACP cores utilised are also vary for panel fire response and made more dangerous when edges are not encapsulated, allowing fire to spread through panels vertically and additionally to any flue gap that may exist behind the curtain wall structure. Of concern, is some methods for installation of ACP by double sided adhesive tape is guaranteed for 10 years, yet this is the first to fail on a fire scenario.
CIBSE SA Chair David Robinson point to the two most valuable messages for building services professionals: 

  1. Do not rely on any cladding material without its compliance fully with AS5113 and external wall approval as there is little approved to date. Ensure panel cores are covered on edges and not affixed with double tape adhesive. The test approval should also cover this as affects debris fallout.

  2. Ensure all vertical flue gaps are sealed as part of the tested product.

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