Consulting Matters Protecting your business
The NCPR: Helping consultants reduce risk Consultants must enforce their construction specifications as the simple act of requesting to view conformance certificates will improve Australia’s compliance regime. This mitigates the serious risks of non-conforming building products. It is also necessary to check the currency of certificates. For example, CodeMark has just withdrawn some of their certificates. To protect their businesses and projects, consultants working across the building and construction industry can use the new National Construction Product Register (NCPR) for free. It is a public online database that records the verified evidence of conformity of building products and materials sold in Australia. This new initiative by NATPSEC is an invaluable tool for building professionals and is very much needed. “Use of non-conforming products to replace those specified by designers’ compromises quality and project outcomes and can ultimately impact on the safety of the people using the finished asset,” says Carl Jenkins, Chair of Consult Australia’s ACT Executive Committee. It was November 2014 when a fire in Melbourne dragged non-compliant and non-conforming building products into the spotlight. The Lacrosse Building in Melbourne’s Docklands caught fire on its eighth storey in the early hours of the morning. About ten minutes later, this fire had already spread up 13 storeys of the building’s façade. A contributing factor to this extraordinarily fast-moving blaze was the polyethylene aluminium composite panels used as cladding on the outside of the 23-storey tower. The speed of the fire was unprecedented. Almost 500 people were evacuated and needed emergency accommodation. Fortunately, damage was only structural. There were no fatalities. Although the polyethylene-core cladding did not cause the fire, it certainly accelerated it and augmented its severity. The combustible cladding should never have been there, on the façade of a high-rise building. It left a high risk of fire and did not follow the NCC. Issues with structural steel bolts, glazing and electrical cables have been of particular concern to engineers. In August 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a mandatory national recall of substandard electrical cables. The cables’ plastic insulation coating becomes
prematurely brittle and presents an electric shock risk and a risk of fire. Close to half of the dangerous cabling remains unidentified in Australian homes and buildings. In 2016 and 2017, glass panels that had not been tested to Australian Standards shattered and fell onto inner-city streets in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Non-conforming building products are used for different reasons and in different ways,
often in ignorance of their full potential for problems. This is where the NCPR is especially important. Information about the conformity of different products and materials and their applicable standards is too often spread over different locations, involving different organisations, Government departments and certifications. The NCPR groups together all of this important information in one easily accessible place. This simplifies the process for consultants
Although the polyethylene-core cladding did not cause the fire, it certainly accelerated it and augmented its severity. The combustible cladding should never have been there, on the façade of a high-rise building. It left a high risk of fire and did not follow the NCC.