Monthly updates

December 2018

Local councils are again being encouraged to refer buildings considered likely to have used combustible cladding to the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) for assessment.

The VBA and the Municipal Association of Victoria recently wrote to councils asking for referrals of multi-storey buildings that they believe might be a safety risk due to the inappropriate use of expanded polystyrene or aluminium composite panels.

As part of the referral process, the VBA is meeting with Municipal Building Surveyors (MBS) and Council building departments to gain a better understanding of local building issues, and to provide an update on the Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit.

The VBA considers the following factors when prioritising buildings:

  • intelligence from local councils that confirms the likelihood of expanded polystyrene or aluminium composite panels on an in-scope building;
  • vulnerability of occupants (for example, aged care facilities, hospitals, child care);
  • use of the building (for example, likely number of occupants and whether they sleep in the building);
  • history of the builder, building surveyor and fire engineer;
  • height of building; and
  • date of construction.

The VBA has worked closely with many councils, their building departments and municipal building surveyors to assess at-risk buildings in 2018 and looks forward to continuing this relationship as co-regulators of the Victorian building industry.

November 2018

Last month, the Victorian Cladding Taskforce released an update detailing some of the initial findings from the Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit.

The findings found:

  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS) has been inappropriately used on a small percentage of low-rise buildings in major population centres, such as suburban Melbourne and regional cities.
  • The majority of higher-risk buildings involving EPS are two or three storeys high, with a single exit and inadequate fire safety measures.
  • Visually identifying aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core and EPS is difficult – even for highly qualified and experienced building practitioners. Destructive testing is often necessary.
  • The maintenance of essential safety measures in multi-storey buildings requires improvement.
  • Building owners face increased insurance premiums and reduced property values while combustible cladding remains on a building.

A significant amount of work to identify and risk assess buildings with combustible cladding has been undertaken this year. A number of buildings have had short-term improvements to fire safety measures implemented, while a plan to address the longer-term rectification of the building is developed.

This work continues to be led by the VBA, but cannot be done without the support and expertise of local government, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, the Country Fire Authority, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, building owners, owners’ corporations and many others from within the building industry.

I am thankful for the support received to date and look forward to continuing to work together in addressing this important issue. As I mentioned in my October update, fixing cladding issues on buildings is difficult, and we understand this will create pressures for building and apartment owners.

The VBA will continue to support building owners through this process, with a focus on the 44 higher-risk buildings the VBA is the Municipal Building Surveyor for. In addition, the VBA’s inspection program continues to assess buildings across the state.

Finally, below are some links to some helpful resources that may assist those with questions about combustible cladding. You can also contact our customer service team by calling 1300 815 127, using our LiveChat service or submitting an enquiry on our website.

  1. MFB’s high-rise safety tips
  2. Learn about Cladding Rectification Agreements
  3. Buying an apartment? Check for combustible cladding as part of your research
  4. Auditing a building – a step-by-step guide
  5. Frequently asked questions – Victorian Building Authority appointed as MBS for certain buildings
  6. Victorian Cladding Taskforce update – October 2018

October 2018

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has been appointed as the Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) for 43 buildings identified through the Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit.

Last month, the Building Act 1993 was amended to give the Minister for Planning the ability to declare the VBA as the MBS for an entire class of building. Until now the Minister has only been able to declare the VBA as the MBS for individual buildings.

Today, the 10th of October 2018, the Minister declared the VBA as the MBS for 43 buildings found to be in a higher-risk category, previously identified through the statewide and pilot cladding audits.

By making the VBA the MBS for these buildings, we will deliver a consistent and coordinated response for this community safety issue, while also alleviating pressure placed on our local government partners – in particular building departments and MBSs.

Until now, the vast majority of work for these buildings has been driven by local government and their building departments – an effort that I am grateful for and which has laid the foundations for the work the VBA will continue.

It’s important to note that these buildings are now safe to occupy, as short-term fire safety measures have been put in place by council MBSs. The role of the VBA is to now deal with longer-term rectification.

Fixing buildings is a significant undertaking. Realistically, we know that some buildings – depending on the extent of work that’s required – may take around two years to fix.

It is a great credit to the VBA that the Government has placed this trust in our organisation to protect the community in this important way.

With this challenge comes the opportunity for the organisation to directly support the community as we work together to enhance the safety of Victoria’s built environment. These are the places where we live, work and play.

This week we will begin communicating directly with owners’ corporations of affected buildings.

For more information on the VBA becoming the MBS, read our frequently asked questions.

September 2018

Learn about combustible cladding by reading the Victorian Building Authority’s fact sheets on expanded polystyrene and aluminium composite panels with a polymer core.

The fact sheets explain some of the tell-tale signs of these types of cladding, how they have risen in popularity in recent times and why they are often dangerous to use on a multi-storey building.

August 2018

Learn about the Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit by reading some of our case studies.

The case studies profile some of the buildings that have been assessed by the VBA in 2018 and highlight the short-term measures that were implemented to reduce the risk to occupants.

Victorian Statewide Cladding audit case studies

July 2018

It is important to know that there are steps every Victorian building or facilities manager can take today to reduce the risk to their building.

The VBA recommends that building managers review the following checklist in Facility Perspectives magazine.

Read The Victorian Statewide Cladding Audit – What it means for you in Facility Perspectives magazine.

June 2018

The Victorian Building Authority is contacting registered builders and property developers asking for a report on the type of cladding they intend to use on the exteriors of projects and multi-storey buildings under construction.

More than 800 individuals and companies have received notice from the VBA asking them to confirm what building materials have been specified for use on projects that haven’t started or are in progress, as part of the Victorian statewide cladding audit.

Read VBA drives further crackdown on combustible cladding to find out more.

May 2018

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) understands the issue of combustible cladding has caused some uncertainty for people when purchasing apartments in Victoria.

To assist your research, the VBA has produced a new fact sheet which lists ten steps you can take prior to purchasing an apartment.

Read: The ten steps you can take prior to purchasing an apartment in Victoria.

April 2018

Did you know flicked cigarette butts, unattended cooking and poor maintenance of appliances are some of the most common causes of fires in high-rise apartments?

Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade has released figures revealing that firefighters attended 1420 preventable fires in residential high-rise buildings over the past 10 years.

61 of these occurred on balconies.

As the State-wide Cladding Audit of priority buildings has reached the halfway mark, it is important for apartment residents to follow best practice fire safety tips.

I encourage you to watch and share the MFB’s videos on high-rise fire safety – they include simple tips, such as knowing where your plan is, where your exits are and how to reduce your risks.

For more information, visit MFB’s high-rise safety page.

March 2018

Dear Victorian building practitioners,

Since joining the VBA in November 2017, a key focus of mine has been working to address the issue of combustible cladding here in Victoria.

By now, we all know that the use of combustible cladding is a serious issue facing the community. To address this, the VBA is undertaking a statewide audit of buildings to identify unsafe cladding in the interests of public safety.

In March, the Victorian Government issued new guidelines to building surveyors that restricts their issuing of building permits where Prescribed Combustible Products are proposed in Type A and B construction.

Prescribed Combustible Products include rendered expanded polystyrene (EPS) and aluminium composite panels (ACP) with polyethylene content in the core of 30 per cent or more by mass. To support this, the VBA has issued a building product safety alert.

It is vitally important that you read and follow this important information.

Building practitioners who choose to ignore this guideline will face disciplinary action from the VBA.

Sue Eddy
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Building Authority

February 2018

The VBA has started contacting people who live in, or own apartments in, buildings that have been identified as requiring inspection as part of the statewide cladding audit.

If you are a resident of one of these buildings, you should receive a postcard from the VBA’s CEO, Sue Eddy. The postcard provides information about the audit and includes fire safety actions you can implement straight away.

The VBA is also writing to owners’ corporations and building owners.

Download a sample version of the postcard in English or your language below.

Sample postcards

(العربية) – Arabic

(中文简体 (国语)) – Chinese Simplified (Mandarin)

(中文繁體(粵語)) – Chinese Traditional (Cantonese)

English – English

(Filipino/Tagalog) – Filipino/Tagalog

(Ελληνικά) – Greek

(हिन्दी) – Hindi

(Italiano) – Italian

(فارسی) – Persian

(ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) – Punjabi

(Tiếng Việt) – Vietnamese

January 2018

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) plays an important role in keeping the community safe in their built environment – these are, amongst other things, the places Victorians live, work and play.

In a practical sense, the VBA meets this challenge by registering and licensing those that work in the building industry and providing the right information to consumers and practitioners. Importantly, another key function of the VBA involves holding practitioners to account for their work and their professional conduct.

In recent times there have been issues raised regarding practitioners' use of combustible cladding. In part, this involves practitioners not understanding their responsibilities when designing, approving or constructing buildings, in particular; residential apartment blocks and places where the public gather en masse or seek significant medical treatment. As a regulator, it is the VBA's job to provide leadership to the industry on this matter, as well as help find solutions to these issues.

From 1 January 2018, the VBA will lead a state-wide audit of:

  • apartment complexes, motels and hotels (three storeys and above)
  • buildings where Victorians gather as a large group, such as sporting arenas; and
  • schools, private hospitals and aged-care facilities (two storeys and above).

Concurrently, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will lead an audit of government buildings in Victoria.

The VBA is committed to undertaking this work as efficiently and effectively as possible. We want to provide Victorians with confidence that they are safe from the dangers presented by combustible cladding. Central to this is keeping residents and owners' corporations informed and educated – while providing fire safety tips they can implement straight away. We will use the best information available to target and identify buildings that may have used cladding inappropriately.

In a basic sense, our audit work will be approached in three stages:

  1. Identify the buildings
  2. Audit and assess their safety
  3. Rectify, where required.

We realise that this work will not be easy. Fixing this will require everyone in the building industry to work together. As noted by the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, there are cultural issues and complexities within the industry and the building codes that, in addition to the audit, also need to be addressed. There will, no doubt, be moments of hardship for all parties involved in this process. We will endeavour to reduce uncertainty throughout the audit by being transparent and open to feedback, while continuing to update the community and the building industry about our progress.

The VBA is committed to improving outcomes for all Victorians, whether that is consumers purchasing their most prized asset or practitioners contributing to the economic prosperity of the State. Let us be clear, however, in terms of this audit and other decisions undertaken by the VBA, our expectation is that the relevant laws are followed by all.

We look forward to working with you through this critical task of auditing cladding throughout Victoria and will deliver an outcome for which all Victorians can feel confident in their building and plumbing regulator.

Sue Eddy
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Building Authority