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Lacrosse cladding is being replaced

31 Jan 2019

Lacrosse cladding is being replaced Image

By Meg Hill

Work to remove flammable cladding on the Lacrosse building has started after more than four years of confusion and indecision.

Builder LU Simon offered to replace the non-compliant cladding in a confidential agreement with owners. The offer, which LU Simon said was a gesture of good faith, was made in 2017.

Docklands News understands the work will replace the cladding on 270 of the building's 328 units and is expected to be completed in May. Some 58 apartments were not fitted with non-compliant cladding.

A spokesperson for LU Simon said: “The contract is commercial in confidence”. The replacement has been reported in the media to cost around $5.6 million.

The use of flammable cladding was revealed in 2014 after a fire spread from an eighth-floor apartment to the 21st floor (the top) in a matter of minutes. Some estimates say the fire reached the top in less than 10 minutes.

Official liability for the use of the non-compliant cladding, and therefore responsibility for paying for replacements, is still undecided.

The Lacrosse case is seen as a test for resolving where liability will fall, and it may be shared proportionally across multiple stakeholders.

Owners, building companies, building surveyors, architects and fire engineers have all been implicated in a blame game over the past four years.

A six-week Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing ended in October 2018, but the judgement has still not been made. It is expected soon.

In July last year, the Victorian Government announced it would offer apartment owners loans to finance cladding replacements in an effort to resolve the dispute.

But the idea that owners, and not those involved in the process of building and approval, should pay has been unsurprisingly controversial.

Apartment owners have also reported difficulty in establishing whether or not they’re affected by non-compliant cladding in the first place.

Barbara Francis from lobby group We Live Here writes in Docklands News this month that “owners’ corporations have been telling us they are getting mixed messages about whether there is a cladding issue at all.”

“Is our building on a danger list or not? Some buildings just could not find out what was going on,” she said.

“And other buildings not ‘on the list’ were misled into inaction.”

The Victorian Cladding Taskforce, established in 2017, initially found that the material could be on as many as 1400 buildings in Victoria.

It was later clarified that many of these were still in planning stages or under construction, and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) then warned against the use of the material.

The VBA’s warning was criticised by building experts interviewed by the ABC who said that it was “no change at all”, as such cladding was already prohibited by the Australian Building Standards.

Questions remain about how the cladding came to be used prominently in the industry despite being prohibited. Investigations have shown that the material is prevalent across Australia, not just Victoria.

The cladding, combustible aluminium polyethylene, is the same material that fuelled the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

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