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London fire and non-conforming building products – Ai Group comment

"London's Grenfell Tower fire and its tragic loss of life have put a strong focus on non-conforming building products with clear implications for Australia," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

"While there are yet to be formal findings, comments from Government Ministers in the UK suggest that the cladding used on the building's exterior may not have been in accordance with UK building regulations.

"The terrible outcome of this incident and the potential for it to be repeated elsewhere, including Australia, is attracting much deserved attention from policy makers here.

"Ai Group has been raising this issue for a number of years including in our 2013 report: The quest for a level playing field: the non-conforming building products dilemma.

"That report was followed by a national forum to discuss pathways forward. Ai Group also helped form the Construction Product Alliance to ensure all of industry was engaged in addressing this problem. There has also been welcome action from State and Federal Governments on the issue including in meetings of Building ministers earlier this year. We are further encouraged with the recent action of the Queensland Government introducing a Bill in Parliament to place greater responsibilities on all participants in the supply chain for product conformance.

"The Australian policy response to the London fire needs to be a continuing focus on the broader issue of conformance as well as not-fit-for-purpose building products of which cladding is one element.

"The example of the Lacrosse building fire in Melbourne's Docklands highlighted that the quality and safety of buildings can be adversely impacted by conforming product installed in situations that it was not designed for. The ensuing audit of 170 buildings by the Victorian Building Authority showed that 51% of buildings did not comply with the external cladding requirements of the National Construction Code.

"This has reinforced Ai Group's view that surveillance and audit by regulators are the most critical elements to ensuring product conformance and compliance.

"Ai Group has contributed to the various inquiries into the non-conforming product issue including the on-going Senate Inquiry.

"An effective resolution to the issue requires regulators, builders and designers working cooperatively together and supporting and designing any appropriate regulatory response," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347