Constructive Notes® - Missing links in the ‘Chain of Responsibility’, 4th edition

Government response to the risks posed by non-conforming building products continues across the various Australian jurisdictions, recently with more uniformity. The legislation and preliminary audit processes have been prompted primarily by two Australian incidents – the 2014 Lacrosse Tower cladding fire in Melbourne and the 2015 national recall of Infinity electrical cabling – and, more recently, the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.

Those events have reinforced the need to ensure that buildings are safe from the risk of the rapid spread of fire, with a particular focus on the installation of potentially combustible cladding products, whether during original construction or any later refurbishment. Government attention has fallen largely on the sale and use of Polyethylene core and Aluminium Composite Panelling, but other ‘non-conforming building products’ are also affected by additional obligations imposed on the industry.

A number of States have imposed blanket bans on all ACP products with a PE core greater than 30 per cent, with broader product regulation still varying significantly between the different jurisdictions.

Since 2018, the risks posed by PE-ACP cladding have caused significant tightening in the Australian professional indemnity insurance market, with substantial increases in premiums and excesses, reduced policy limits and growing difficulty for building industry professionals in obtaining exclusion-free cover. The threat posed to the local construction industry and property market has drawn an urgent, albeit temporary response from a number of Australian States.

Recent announcements by Commonwealth and State building Ministers do however suggest that comprehensive, and largely consistent reform is expected to be implemented across Australia within three years.

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Carter Newell Lawyers
August 2019