‘Fire risk’ audit excludes houses


THE state government has been accused of ignoring aluminium composite cladding fire risks faced by people living in single and two-storey homes.

Houses have been excluded from the government-ordered audit of buildings incorporating the flammable material.

“The irony is that apartments are included in the audit, so there’s a line drawn to say it’s OK for home owners and residents to be housed in combustible buildings but not tenants or owners of apartments,” Ron Corcoran said.

Alarm about the dangers of aluminium composite cladding was raised in June 2017 when 72 died when London’s 20-storey Grenfell Tower caught fire. In March 2019, a cigarette was blamed for a blaze in Melbourne’s Neo200 building that that jumped five storeys.

Several years ago, Mr Corcoran bought one of two $1 million plus luxury townhouses in Mornington, only to later discover “a lot” of aluminium had been used in their construction.

An expert in galvanic corrosion, Mr Corcoran knew that besides its well publicised flammability, the aluminium would also corrode because of the townhouses’ proximity to the sea.

He said the extensive use of aluminium posed “all of these problems that you don’t expect”.

“You can’t sell without these type of problems – which were against buildings regulations – being fixed.”

The discovery of the aluminium and the lack of adequate waterproofing on a deck started lengthy negotiations with the builder.

Inspections found 40 to 50 problems with the two townhouses which eventually cost about $100,000 to fix.

Mr Corcoran said that neither the Victorian Building Authority or Mornington Peninsula Shire wanted to know about the problems, and he was forced to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s disputes resolution board to force the builder to act.

The shire will not identify buildings on the peninsula uncovered by the state-wide audit by the VBA. Instead of agreeing to call on its own staff to report on the progress of making the buildings safe, councillors have agreed to the mayor Cr Despi O’Connor telling the state government that its building surveyour, not the shire’s, should be responsible for ordering buildings to be repaired or even evacuated (“Fire risks clad in secrecy” The News 1/2/21).

It is understood that a hospital is one of the buildings identified in the VBA audit.

Mr Corcoran believes the government, by not including single and two storey houses in the aluminium cladding audit, is “trying to keep a lid on it”.

He said it was obvious that aluminium cladding was used in the construction of many houses along the Esplanade from Mornington to Mount Martha and along the peninsula’s Port Phillip coastline.

“There’s a double standard in buildings. The aluminium is all right for use in houses but not in aged care or hospitals.”

Mr Corcoran said builders often “use the cheapest materials out of Asia”.

“Many big new residences are completely built from flammable cladding, you only have to look along the Esplanade and think how many there must be around the country,” he said.

“According to the building code they can be built out of any combustible material, such as weatherboards or ACP.

First published in the Mornington News – 23 February 2021


Comments are closed.