Frequently asked questions – fire standards and external cladding
Following the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in England, some residents have expressed their concerns regarding building standards in Australia and the use of non-compliant cladding material.
The following frequently asked questions are intended to give an introduction to this topic.
What are the fire issues with cladding?
The key to fire safety is all safety features and elements working together to stop the spread of fire and provide time for occupants to exit and emergency services to arrive.
Non-complaint external cladding may pose a fire threat - accelerating the spread of fire in all directions of a building façade. This is particularly the case in buildings where other fire prevention systems, such as sprinklers, are not in place.
In Australia, buildings over 25 metres in height must have fire sprinklers.
Are any Australian authorities investigating the safety of cladding?
The Australian building regulators, principally the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) have been aware of, and are acting upon, concerns regarding cladding.
The ABCB produced a paper, Non-compliant use of External Cladding Products on Buildings [PDF, 0.4MB], last year as part of a proposed regulatory reform process needed to make changes around some elements of industry practice.
What is Council’s role in reviewing or changing building code requirements in relation to cladding?
Council has no legislative role in developing or changing building code requirements. Fire safety in buildings is a measure included in building codes, which are determined at a national and state level.
It is important to note that private certifiers are responsible for building code assessment and approval, as well as compliance with those codes during construction. As such, any reforms regarding building codes will also inform how they approve building applications.
Council’s regulatory responsibility may change as a result of any reforms, but any impact on processes are yet to be determined.
Does Council have any role in fire safety?
Council has a broad role in ensuring any reports of fire safety in buildings are appropriately investigated and resolved. This will typically involve communications with building owners, the private certifier for the building and/or Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) if required.
What is the role of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) in managing fire hazards?
QFES regulate special fire services within apartment buildings including access for their fire appliances through involvement in the building approval process.
Reforms may result in changes to how they regulate these issues.
In more general terms the QFES also has a role in ensuring building owners maintain apartment buildings to ensure occupant safety in the event of a fire or emergency. The following information is provided by QFES in regards to the responsibilities of building owners and occupiers.
Who checks if older buildings are safe?
The ongoing safety of buildings is the responsibility of building owners. Other than for domestic dwellings, the QFES has jurisdiction to check on fire safety in older buildings through the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 and Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008. This will generally include an annual occupier statement of compliance.
You can read the QFES Building Fire Safety Management Tool & Advsiroy Notes [PDF, 0.9MB] for further information.
What should I do if I am concerned about the safety of a building?
If you are aware of any specific concerns with building safety of current buildings in Redland City, you should contact Council or QFES so these can be investigated or shared with the appropriate authority.