Frequently Asked Questions
What is the National Construction Code?
The National Construction Code is an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments developed to incorporate all on-site building and plumbing requirements into a single code. The National Construction Code sets the minimum requirements for the design, construction and performance of buildings throughout Australia. The National Construction Code contains three Volumes:
- Volume One, Building Code of Australia – Class 2 to Class 9 buildings
- Volume Two, Building Code of Australia – Class 1 and Class 10 buildings
- Volume three, Plumbing Code of Australia
What is cladding?
A non-loadbearing covering of a wall which generally improves the external appearance, weatherproofing and insulation capacity of a building.
What does non-compliant use of cladding mean?
The use of cladding on a building does not comply with the relevant fire safety standards specified in the National Construction Code.
Where the cladding product is part of an alternate solution, a non-compliant audit finding could mean that there is a lack of acceptable evidence on file by the relevant building practitioners or the relevant council to demonstrate compliance.
What does safe to occupy mean?
The municipal building surveyor has assessed the building and formed the opinion that people can continue to live in it. This does not necessarily mean that the building is compliant.
Can a building be safe to occupy but not compliant? How?
Yes. People can live in buildings if the municipal building surveyor considers them safe to occupy, whilst the use of cladding may be considered non-compliant. This may be because the municipal building surveyor considers:
- the building's fire safety measures (e.g. fire alarms, sprinkler systems emergency warning systems, etc) to offset the risks of a fire event; or
- the extent of the non-compliant cladding on the building to be minimal and low-risk.
What fire safety measures do Australian buildings have?
Fire safety measures may include fire sprinkler systems, emergency warning systems, emergency lighting, emergency exit signage, fire isolated exit stairs, fire extinguishers, multiple exits and fire and smoke alarms.
Has my building been audited?
Only high-rise residential and public buildings in Melbourne, Docklands, Southbank, East Melbourne and Parkville constructed between 1 January 2005 and 30 April 2015 were assessed in the first audit. The second audit focused on various buildings with links to the builder of the Harvest Apartments in South Melbourne. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce started a pilot visual inspection program in the Dandenong, Moreland, Monash, Port Phillip and Whittlesea municipalities on 16 August 2017.
How do I find out if my building has combustible cladding attached to it?
In the first instance, contact your building manager or owners' corporation. If you are a building manager or owner, you can request relevant documentation from your local council or the building surveyor responsible for the building work. You are entitled to seek advice from a private building surveyor or fire engineer about the status of your building.
What type of cladding was used on the Lacrosse Tower?
Aluminium composite panel (ACP). ACP is a type of flat panel that consists of two thin aluminium sheets bonded to a non-aluminium core, or insulation material. The most commonly used types of ACP have differing levels of polyethylene core varying from 7% - 100%. It is accepted that most ACP installed on buildings before 2012 is the type with a 100% polyethylene core. ACP is a fire hazard because of its polyethylene core and irrespective of the level of polyethylene used, is combustible under the deemed to satisfy provisions of the National Construction Code.
What is the issue with using ACP on buildings?
It is combustible and was found by the MFB to have contributed to the rapid spread of the Lacrosse Tower fire.
I want to buy an apartment in Docklands. The building has not been audited. Is the VBA going to audit my building?
If your building was not included in the VBA's first audit, you will need to satisfy yourself as the purchaser that the building is compliant. You should seek legal advice on how to proceed prior to purchasing the property.
I own a townhouse in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Is the cladding on my building combustible? My local council referred me to the VBA.
This is not something the VBA can answer. As a building owner, you can request your building's plans and drawings from your local council. You are entitled to seek advice from a private building surveyor or fire engineer about the status of your building.
I live in or own an apartment block that is more than three storeys high. Will my apartment complex be audited?
The Minister for Planning established the Victorian Cladding Taskforce on 10 July 2017. The Taskforce will, among other matters, provide guidance on the scope of any future audit. On 16 August 2017, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce announced the start of a pilot visual building inspection program to determine the extent of inappropriate use of cladding throughout Victoria. The pilot inspection program focuses on Dandenong, Moreland, Monash, Port Phillip and Whittlesea Councils. The Taskforce will oversee an audit after the pilot visual inspection program. Further information about the work of the Taskforce is available: https://www.planning.vic.gov.au/building-policy/victorian-cladding-taskforce.
Who is responsible for assessing the safety of my building and assisting me?
In the first instance, contact your owners' corporation which is responsible for maintaining all essential safety measures. Essential safety measures are the features of a building designed to protect the occupants and the building from fire – for example, fire doors, sprinklers, fire hydrants, smoke and heat detectors and emergency exit signs.
The owners' corporation may wish to contact the relevant building surveyor who granted the building and occupancy permits for your building. Their details should be held by your local council.
The council's municipal building surveyor may also be able to assist you.
What is the difference between the VBA's cladding audit, and the Cladding Taskforce?
The VBA's cladding audit was designed to identify the extent of non-compliant external wall cladding materials in residential high-rise and public buildings. After discovering issues with the Harvest apartments in the initial audit, the VBA then audited a further 42 buildings with links to the builder of the Harvest apartments in South Melbourne.
The Victorian Cladding Taskforce was established to investigate more broadly, the extent of non-compliant cladding on Victorian buildings. The Taskforce will aim to ensure the right systems implemented to prevent the use of non-compliant building products in the future. The Taskforce includes representatives from WorkSafe Victoria, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, the Victorian Building Authority, the Municipal Association of Victoria and Emergency Management Victoria. The Taskforce announced the start of a pilot visual building inspection program on 16 August 2017 in the Dandenong, Moreland, Monash, Port Phillip and Whittlesea Councils.
Where can I find information on the Lacrosse Tower fire in 2014?
Where can I find information on the initial cladding audit done by the VBA?
What action has the VBA undertaken against the practitioners responsible for Lacrosse?
The VBA investigated several practitioners involved in the construction of the Lacrosse building and referred these to the Building Practitioners Board. These matters are currently before the Building Practitioners Board.
Can you explain the shared responsibility of local municipal councils, the Victorian Building Authority and private building surveyors in regulating Victoria's building industry?
Regulating Victoria's building industry is a shared responsibility reliant on cooperation, information sharing and accountability.
- Private building surveyors are primarily responsible for ensuring buildings are built in compliance with the building legislation, safe, accessible and energy efficient. Once appointed they are involved for the duration of the building project, issue the building permit if they are satisfied the design is compliant, carry out or organise mandatory inspections and are responsible for issuing occupancy permits or certificates of final inspection.
- Local government has oversight of all building work and building stock within their municipality and is responsible for addressing emergency situations. This oversight includes the use of statutory powers to ensure compliance with the Act.
- The VBA has oversight of registered builders and building surveyors. It can also take disciplinary or prosecutorial action for breaches of the building legislation.
A building surveyor is professionally trained in understanding the building control process. There are two types of building surveyor:
- Private building surveyors; and
- Municipal building surveyors
They are responsible for assessing building plans with a view to ensuring they comply with building legislation and the National Construction Code.
A registered building surveyor is authorised to:
- Assess building permit applications for compliance with the Building Act 1993, Building Interim Regulations 2017 and the National Construction Code;
- Issue building and occupancy permits and certificates of final inspection;
- Conduct building inspections at the mandatory notification stages;
- Serve directions to fix non-compliant building work; and
- Serve building notices and orders under the Building Act 1993.
The VBA monitors and enforces compliance with building legislation. The conduct of registered building practitioners is a primary focus. If a building surveyor does not meet certain standards, the VBA becomes involved. An example is outlined in the VBA's media release: Building surveyor loses battle to avoid cancellation of registration.
The VBA has the power to:
- Bring proceedings for any offence against building legislation;
- Apply for and execute search warrants;
- Require the production of documents or the giving of information to determine compliance with the Act or Regulations;
- Act as a municipal building surveyor in relation to any matter referred to the VBA by a private building surveyor; and
- Direct a municipal building surveyor or private building surveyor to carry out their functions.
Local government must appoint, employ or nominate a municipal building surveyor. The municipal building surveyor is often the first party to whom non-compliance with building legislation is reported by members of the community.
Local government has the power to:
- Administer and enforce building permits issued by the MBS;
- Act in circumstances where building work without a building permit has been identified by council;
- Take appropriate action where there is a known risk to health or risk of injury or death;
- Receive copies of building permits, occupancy permits, notices and orders from private building surveyors and maintain a register of these matters;
- Provide information as prescribed by the building regulations;
- Apply for and execute search warrants;
- Require the production of documents or the giving of information to determine compliance with building legislation; and
- Bring proceedings for offences under Part 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Building Act 1993.