Concerns about the use of flammable building cladding on the Gold Coast
Lookup Strata
By: The LookUpStrata Team
12 July 2016

The Queensland government may be putting thousands of lives at risk, with one leading figure claiming that unsafe building materials imported from overseas – flammable building cladding – could see high-rise buildings on the glitter strip “go up in flames”.

Safety should always be a government’s top priority, particularly in the high-rise building industry.

But Roger Dearing, a prominent member of the Unit Owner’s Association of Queensland, says many buildings that have been constructed on the Gold Coast have failed to comply with nationwide cladding standards.

cheap, Chinese-made flammable building cladding

Failing to consent to national cladding standards by using cheap, Chinese-made flammable building cladding can contribute to a lack of fire resistance, which could result in a skyscraper going up in flames in a matter of minutes.

Dearing says certain strata buildings located within Queensland face this very risk, as they contain a highly flammable material that has been linked to serious high-rise fires in Melbourne and Dubai.

refusing to identify which buildings

The Government’s Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has investigated and found non-compliant cladding material within at least two Gold Coast high-rises – but is refusing to identify which buildings are involved.

“The 2000 Childers death by fire referred to in the Bulletin article on 26 May, 2016 will pail into insignificance when a Queensland high-rise goes up in flames,” Dearing says.

“The Queensland State Government has turned a blind eye to the incorrect use of buildings for many years,” he adds.

The use of non-compliant flammable aluminium cladding is unfortunately nothing new in the world of construction, with certain developers favouring cheaper materials imported from elsewhere and consequently putting high-rise buildings at risk and, critically, the lives of residents.

By failing to comply with the standards cladding, select Queensland high-rises are not only at higher risk of severe fire damage, they are also subject to increased damage via weathering.

transient (short term) holiday accommodation

“In addition to noncompliant cladding, there are buildings being used for transient (short term) holiday accommodation, when they were built for long term residential [usage] with lower standard fire alarm and fire egress systems,” Dearing explains. Short term holiday accommodation requires a higher level of fire safety systems as the holiday residents don’t have the same emergency familiarity with the building as do long term residents.

“The public are being kept in the dark to protect the Government’s developer mates, who contribute huge funds to both political parties, and are being treated as fools by the Government Departments who exist to provide consumer protection.”

If more transparency and clarity isn’t forthcoming, Dearing worries we could experience another fire tragedy similar to the Childers Backpackers fire, which killed 15 people in the year 2000.

“This blind eye approach extended to all buildings until the tragic loss of life by fire at Childers and Sandgate, is unacceptable” he says.

Brisbane compensation law expert Mark O’Connor, a director of Brisbane firm Bennett & Philp Lawyers, has also urged the QBCC to name the buildings involved.

“The building owners and occupants deserve to know if they are living with a fire risk around them,” he said via a statement in June 2016.

“If the State knows of buildings with flammable material in them, its silence only creates a climate of fear among all high rise owners and occupants… The building owners should be told so that they can ensure their fire evacuation systems are up to date.”

The use of unsafe flammable building cladding is a serious issue in Melbourne, where it’s been identified that around 50 per cent of the city’s high rise apartments contain non-compliant cladding.

In 2014, a smouldering cigarette on a 6th floor balcony raced up 13 floors of the building in only 11 minutes, due to the use of cladding material, imported from China, that did not meet Australian standards and should never have been used.

We have contacted the QBCC about this matter and are awaiting on a reply.

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