Fire tests for risky unit block cladding
A popular cladding product that is on a number of Sydney high rise apartment buildings is being slammed as a fire risk.
But a spokesman for manufacturers Fairview say their product complies with regulations, has passed testing by the CSIRO and is the victim of a smear campaign.
Two construction industry figures have condemned the use of the Vitracore G2 cladding panels, which is on a Bondi Junction high-rise as well as buildings in Liverpool, Crows Nest, Burwood, Waterloo and Brookvale.
Despite being compliant with current Australian standards, the product has effectively been banned in Queensland while Victorian regulators are investigating concerns that its glue content and waffle-like design could create a fire risk.
The debate comes as NSW authorities hold an industry briefing February 9 to consider which products will be used to replace other cladding materials which have been deemed an unacceptable fire risk. Newcastle builder and Aristoclad director Robert Edman, 70, said he has fire-tested four cladding products with an oxytorch and found that Vitracore G2 "is the only one that burns".
"I would not like to be in a building that went up in flames with this product on it," the 55-year construction industry vet said.
"I would not recommend this product and do not use it."
Mr Edman said he receives no incentive from other cladding producers. Queensland-based builder Daron Hodder said since Queensland's Non-Conforming Building Products legislation in 2018, the product was rejected because of fire concerns.
"Under these laws the product needs to be approved by an engineer and because of this it is not getting any use in Queensland," the ACLAD director said.
"If the Queensland laws existed across the country the product would not be used anywhere in the country. This is a product that should be taken off the market".
Mr Hodder said the product was rejected for use on the new Mercedes-Benz building in Newstead because of fire concerns. A spokesman for Fairview said "Vitracore G2 is a safe and approved cladding, which has never been involved in serious or fatal facade fires anywhere".
"Vitracore is fully compliant - with two separate product compliance routes - on Class 2-9 buildings, and is independently validated by the CSIRO and ABCB's codemark schemes as complying with Australia's National Construction Code," he said.
"More, real life case studies show Vitracore inhibits fire, rather than spreads it.
"Through independent tests, certification, code-compliance and real-world performance, Vitracore G2 is proven as a safe, compliant and high-performing facade cladding."
The product was on the Paper Mill building in Liverpool when it caught fire in 2017. The company claims "Vitracore G2 cladding which came under direct flame attack, did not spread the fire".
Greens MP David Shoebridge, Chair of the NSW Building Standards Inquiry, said: "Wherever flammable polymers are being used in cladding, whether it is in glues or insulation, then there is an inevitable fire risk".
"The industry needs government certified testing of cladding products so that we don't have a "he says, she says" argument about fire safety from different market players," he said.
"We are now three and a half years after the Grenfell Tower disaster and in the absence of clear guidance from government many building owners may well have wasted thousands of dollars by replacing one type of flammable cladding with another."
In February NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler's office will advise suppliers on the role of the Cladding Product Safety Panel, and the likely approach to managing remediation work and product procurement.
Originally published as Fire tests for risky unit block cladding