How ACP Played A Part

In the last six years alone, we’ve seen numerous multi-storey buildings lost to quick-spreading fires. Four of these fires stand out as large-scale tower fires that devastated the lives of many. What do they have in common? All buildings either had or are thought to have used combustible cladding.

A highly dangerous building practice, the use of combustible cladding material has proven to contribute to the quick spread of flames and low melt temperatures.

Currently, Victorian buildings deemed highest risk by cladding audits are having all their flammable cladding taken off and replaced to avoid situations like those described below from occurring again.

Neo 200, Melbourne

Started by a lit cigarette on a balcony and rapidly climbing up the exterior of the building, this fire grew out of control at an alarming rate on February 4, 2019. The 41-level building was found by the Chief of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to have been covered with Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP).

According to The Age, documentation has been found that indicated the council had warned the owner’s corporation that the use of combustible cladding was dangerous and could put residents at unnecessary risk. The building managers did not heed the warnings but instead installed early-warning systems in some units.

The fire left many residents displaced for weeks on end while they waited to learn what kind of damage had occurred within the building. Others would not return for months as fire and water damage were repaired.

The owners will now be stuck with the bill to replace the non-compliant cladding and install an updated fire detection system within the building. The owner’s corporation must answer for their reasoning behind not informing residents of the risks of the building with many waiting to see what will happen to their livelihood.

The Lacrosse, Melbourne

This 2014 fire tore through the Lacrosse apartment building having also been sparked by a stray cigarette on a balcony. The flames raced across the façade to reach the roof in under 15 minutes. This façade was later found to be covered with the same ACP that has contributed to other highly-publicised fires.

The large scale of the blaze, which spanned 13 levels, was a shock even to the emergency responders. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade remarked that the ACP present on the exterior of the building was directly related to the speed of the flames spreading.

With replacement costs estimated in the millions, many building managers and apartment owners now must make tough decisions about their property investments.

Grenfell Tower, London

One of the worst fires in recent memory, this tragic June 2017 incident claimed the lives of 72 people. Originating from a fridge/freezer, the blaze quickly jumped to the external cladding and climbed all four sides of the building.

The fire created a torrent of flame around the building that was spreading with excessive speed up the cladding. Dozens of fire engines responded to the scene, and the fire quickly became unstoppable. With over 100 flats in flames, the fire took over 24 hours to burn itself out.

Investigations found that the external cladding was bonded to a polyethylene core. This substance, along with several other flammable materials and a faulty smoke extraction system, was a major contributing factor to the speed and spread of the flames. The disaster triggered a public inquiry and an investigation into the building materials and cladding is still ongoing.

Multi-Storey Apartment Building, South Korea

The most recent large-scale fire happened in October of 2020. A fire engulfed a 33-storey building in the city of Ulsan, South Korea overnight while many were asleep in their beds. Fire departments responded quickly, leading to many being rescued from the burning building where heavy winds fuelled the flames.

Although the cause is yet to be confirmed, parallels are being drawn to the recent Victorian multi-storey blazes. The rate at which the fire spread may indicate the use of ACPs or other flammable building materials.

Is your building safe?
With the recent memory of two large apartment tower fires fresh in the minds of Victorians, fear spreads among builders and owners awaiting building commissions to decide how to tackle the issue of non-compliant cladding use across the state. If you need assistance assessing your building material or scheduling removal of combustible cladding, speak with us today.