Managing combustible cladding in Queensland

Cladding is the outside skin of a building. It is used to provide insulation and weather resistance, and to improve the appearance of buildings.

There are numerous types of cladding available and certain materials pose a fire safety risk for building occupants. Combustible aluminium composite panels (ACP), expanded polystyrene (EPS) systems, and other combustible cladding materials can increase the speed of external fire spread.

Some combustible cladding can be retained if a fire engineer determines it is safe to do so.

What we have done

In Queensland, we have banned the use of ACP with a polyethylene (PE) core of greater than 30 per cent by mass on all new buildings. EPS used in external insulating and finish (rendered) systems is also banned for external walls, including as an attachment (e.g. a sunscreen or awning). Refer to Queensland Development Code 2.5 for further detail.

In August 2017, we enacted non-conforming building products legislation that is intended to discontinue the use of unsafe products on buildings. The Building and Construction Legislation (Non-conforming Building Products—Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2017 created a chain of responsibility restricting the use of non-conforming building products and includes a requirement to report their use. This strengthened the focus on all parties within the chain of responsibility and reduced the burden on the building certifier as the final approver of building works. The legislation also extended the powers of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) to investigate and take enforcement action.

In 2018, we introduced legislation that requires all private owners of in-scope buildings to complete a combustible cladding checklist to determine the type of cladding material used on their building and whether any further assessment is required.

The Safer Buildings Taskforce was established in 2019 to advise the government on the necessary policies and actions to ensure the safety of Queensland buildings. The Taskforce was also asked to advise government on how to achieve rectification of combustible cladding and what’s needed to support building owners through the process.

The combustible cladding checklist process was the first step of our three-phase overarching approach to combustible cladding involving identification, mitigation and rectification.

Combustible cladding timeline

1. Cladding identification - completion of the combustible cladding checklist

Private building owners or bodies corporate needed to complete the combustible cladding checklist by 3 May 2021.
Although the final compliance date has passed, all in-scope private building owners are still required to complete any checklist obligations that remain outstanding.

Almost 20,000 assessments have been completed covering all classes of buildings (excluding houses and sheds) and attachments to buildings, such as such as awnings, sunscreens, and signs. This also included all potentially flammable materials, not just ACP and EPS.

As of 12 June 2023:

  • more than 18,000 private buildings have been cleared with no cladding fire risk
  • 949 require a solution to address the risk**
  • 297 still to complete the process are potentially at risk and need to continue to progress through the checklist process
  • 222 have notified removal or rectification (80 prior to completion of the checklist process).

** Interim risk mitigation measures may be required until rectification is completed.

Those building owners who have completed the checklist process have either been cleared, or now have a report from a fire engineer detailing the type of cladding, the extent of the problem, and what actions to take to mitigate any cladding fire risk before rectifying their buildings.

For further information regarding the combustible cladding checklist process visit the Safer Buildings website.

2. Fire risk mitigation – interim safety measures

Fire engineers who prepared a report for building owners will also identify any fire safety risk mitigation measures that should be implemented to ensure buildings are safe to occupy until the combustible cladding is rectified.

Building owners should consider implementing and maintaining any fire safety risk mitigation measures recommended by the fire engineer which could include:

  • immediate, or more frequent, servicing and maintenance of the fire safety system of a building
  • the removal of vegetation, vehicles or other flammable things from a building
  • the removal of material forming part of, or attached or applied to, an external wall or another external part of a building
  • the carrying out of emergency evacuation drills
  • partial or complete evacuation of a building.

A building with an identified cladding fire risk is also required to display a Form 42 - Affected Private Building Notice to alert building occupants of the risk.

This notice must be attached in a conspicuous position to a wall or door near a main entry point.

It must remain displayed until either the cladding is removed, or a building certifier gives the owner a compliance certificate stating that the combustible cladding complies with the Building Code of Australia.

Owners must also provide access to the report to their respective lot owners and tenants. The QBCC and relevant local government must also be given copies of the report.

Further information regarding buildings identified as a cladding fire risk is available on the Safer Buildings website.

3. Cladding rectification – fixing the problem

Private building owners are strongly encouraged to rectify their buildings to address the cladding fire risk and make their buildings safe. There is currently no deadline for private buildings owners in Queensland to rectify their buildings.

Cladding rectification work means carrying out building work to alter combustible cladding forming part of, or attached or applied to, an external wall or another external part of the building other than the roof. This could comprise either:

  • removal and replacement of the combustible cladding
  • otherwise reducing the risk of fire in connection with the combustible cladding, e.g. obtaining a fire engineered performance solution demonstrating that any combustible cladding that is retained on the building, complies with the Building Code of Australia.

A building development approval is required for cladding rectification work. As part of this process, referral to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services is required.

Not all combustible cladding may need to be replaced. Fire engineers evaluate each building on a case-by-case basis.

Rectification costs

Private building owners are encouraged to consider legal representation regarding their property, commercial, contractual and compensation/litigation rights. This may require engaging a commercial or litigation lawyer, rather than a generalist legal firm.  The Queensland Law Society's website includes a 'find a solicitor' function.

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