Extend cladding taskforce to shoddy glass, say unit owners

Australian Financial Review

Extend cladding taskforce to shoddy glass, say unit owners

Apartment owners are pushing for a Victoria government taskforce investigating non-compliant cladding on buildings to be expanded to include unsafe glass panels and other risky materials.

Earlier this week the state government announced the cladding taskforce will be chaired by former premier and architect Ted Baillieu and former deputy premier and planning minister John Thwaites.

The Lacrosse building in Docklands three years after a fire.

The Lacrosse building in Docklands three years after a fire. 

Photo: Scott Barbour

Strata Community Australia, which represents owners corporations, has called for the taskforce to be broadened, amid fresh reports in Fairfax Media of glass balcony explosions suspected to result from poor manufacturing standards.

SCA's general manager Rob Beck said the risk of substandard products was increasing as the use of glass panel facades and cladding in apartments towers grew.

"Similar to the recent Grenfell fire regarding flammable aluminium cladding, we must not wait until a glass panel explodes on a couple sitting on their balcony, or falls to the street below crashing down onto pedestrians," he said.

"There is ample information to suggest this is a problem right now, and we are eager to see these high-risk materials dealt with at the same time as flammable cladding, not after." 

The Victorian taskforce comes in the wake of both the fatal Grenfell Tower fire in London last month and a fire in 2014 at a Docklands apartment building.

Disciplinary hearings over the Lacrosse fires will not be held until August this year, nearly three years after the Docklands conflagration.

An audit of cladding on Victorian buildings has assessed more than 220 Victorian properties. All have been declared safe to occupy even though many do not comply with regulations

"The building defects crisis unfortunately is not isolated to one material alone," Mr Beck said.

"So long as inspections and testing will be taking place on the exterior of apartment buildings, other unsafe materials like glass panels cannot be ignored."