A senior fire engineer has bemoaned the “frustrating” official responses to flammable cladding, saying not enough is being done to develop a national standard.
Speaking to the Queensland Association of Fire Investigators, Steve Burton said that, despite the formation of a national taskforce, responses have not been uniform across the county and still vary across different states and territories.
Burton, CEO at Brisbane-based Ferm Engineering, also said governments have been slow to react while there has been no “firm action” from the fire engineering industry.
However, Burton did say Australia is entering a “new era of awareness” which is helping ensure buildings are safer. His comments come after Ferm partnered with ICPS Australia and the Queensland University of Technology’s Science and Engineering Faculty to establish a reliable testing regime.
In addition, he called on building owners to identify and quantify aluminium composite panels (ACPs) which may be used for weatherproofing or decorative surfaces and also within entire walls. From there, they should conduct detailed risk assessments and implement effective mitigation and rectification measures. This starts with audits and product specifications – however, products must be tested because supplier information is often “inadequate or unavailable” and must show how quickly a material burns.
Brad Nicholls, managing director of ICPS Australia, said the insurance industry can help drive greater awareness of ACP while also supporting building owners through the often-tricky rectification process.
“Brokers and underwriters have a vital role to play in helping insureds get risk assessments on buildings that may be problematic,” he told Insurance Business, adding that the partnership’s newly-established testing regime is a simple way to ascertain whether mitigation or rectification is required.
Burton also noted that, for underwriters, their options were to decline coverage for potentially vulnerable buildings, to add exclusion clauses or to increase premiums.
He also said that ACP could prompt building owners to seek new underwriting markets and create a “new playing field” of shared risk and mitigation.