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Editions

Lacrosse cladding appeal fails

01 Feb 2017

The Building Appeals Board (BAB) last month rejected an alternative proposal and ruled that combustible aluminium-backed cladding be replaced on the Lacrosse Building in LaTrobe St.

The non-compliant cladding was found to be responsible for a quick-spreading balcony fire at the building in November 2014 and the City of Melbourne’s building surveyor later ordered its removal.

But the buildings owner’s corporations appealed the decision supporting instead a proposal by builder LU Simon for the less expensive installation of balcony sprinklers.

But, in its decision of January 16, the appeals board found the alternative proposal “untenable”.

“The risk posed by the current cladding is so serious that it is necessary to have a building order which requires the owners to remedy the situation,” the board ruled.

The Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) contended that the proposed sprinklers may not be effective in high winds and would not address potential cavity fires.

Further, the sprinklers were not designed for the purpose proposed by LU Simon and possibly had not been used for this purpose anywhere else in the world.

It was proposed that the balcony sprinklers be fed by the existing building sprinkler system, casting doubt on its performance.

The Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) had similar doubts and concerns. The chief fire officer also pointed out that a fire similar to the November 2014 blaze may have already escaped before sprinklers were activated.

The BAB report says: “The fire at the subject address spread from level 6 to level 23 in approximately 11 minutes, whereas initial sprinkler activation for both the facade fire test and the balcony fire test configuration favouring early sprinkler activation, was approximately at the four minute mark.”

It was also noted that conditions in the occupancy permit for a building of such a size were “highly unusual”.

In particular:

  • There is no fire separation within or between floors;
  • There was an alternative option which provided for a combustible rubbish chute;
  • Sprinkler coverage was removed from specified parts of the building; and
  • The water supply for the sprinklers was downgraded from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2 system.

The original building order directed the cladding to be removed last year. The parties are yet to agree on a new timeline for its removal.

 

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