Combustible cladding to be stripped off Lacrosse Docklands tower
By: Aisha Dow
17 January 2017
Combustible cladding plastered across a Docklands high-rise will be
stripped from the building after it was found the imported material
posed a "significant and unacceptable" risk to hundreds of residents.
On Monday, the Building Appeals Board ordered the owners to remove the
material. It quashed a bid by LU Simon Builders to keep the cladding
and instead install more sprinklers, saying the equipment might
fail with "catastrophic" results.
"The risk posed by the current cladding is so serious that it is
necessary to have a building order which requires the owners to remedy
the situation," the board found.
The decision means the 470 owners of the Lacrosse apartments could be
left with an $8.6 million cladding replacement bill, on top of $6.5
million already spent to fix damage from a fire that tore up the
21-storey building in November 2014.
questions about the safety of the
The determination also raises questions about the safety of the
building, after the board found balconies were being used to store
residents' possessions – which, along with the combustible cladding,
helped fuel the spread of the 2014 blaze.
While Melbourne City Council's building surveyor has insisted that the
Lacrosse building is safe to occupy, it remains on the condition that
interim safety measures such as keeping balconies clear of clutter and
preventing overcrowding are in place.
On Monday many balconies at Lacrosse were cluttered with items, including clothes horses.
Resident Yuka Saito said she did not even know there had been fire in
the building. The 26-year-old Japanese student has lived in the tower
for a year, with five people in a two-bedroom unit.
"Every Wednesday or Thursday there is an alarm [for a fire drill], but nobody cares," she said.
Cluttered balconies this week at Dockland's Lacrosse tower. Photo: Chris Hopkins
A council spokeswoman said occasional instances of balcony clutter had
been rectified and council was auditing maintenance records at the
building about every four months.
Cluttered balcony at the Lacrosse tower. Photo: Chris Hopkins
The Building Appeals Board is yet to rule on when the cladding will
have to be removed and, with a Supreme Court appeal possible, Fire
Protection Association Australia chief executive Scott Williams said he
was concerned the issue would drag on.
Mr Williams said it only took a small combustible item, and the right circumstances, for a fire to start.
Another cluttered balcony at the Lacrosse tower. Photo: Chris Hopkins
"I think it is very hard for Melbourne City Council to enforce [clutter
on balconies]. People have a right to use them, but in these
circumstances, until that cladding is replaced, there continues to be a
heightened level of risk," he said.
Adding to the safety concerns, an engineering expert told the latest
appeal that there was "no fire separation within or between" floors in
"I would argue it's a common law property right that fires should not
spread to other properties," Dr Tony Enright, a fellow of Engineers
"While a fire within a building can occur, people including emergency
responders shouldn't be injured or die, and another person's property
shouldn't be damaged."
A spokeswoman for LU Simon declined to say whether the construction company would foot the bill for the replacement cladding.
"We are awaiting directions from the lawyers as to the effect of the judgment on ourselves and the owners," she said.
At least 140 owners are already seeking $15 million in compensation
from the builder in an ongoing Victorian Civil and Administrative
LU Simon had proposed to install balcony sprinklers and wall wetting
sprinklers, but the board said it was not satisfied the sprinklers
would operate properly during high-wind conditions.
It said the installed Alucobest cladding did not meet the relevant
performance requirements of the Building Code of Australia and "was
highly unusual for a building of Lacrosse's size".
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade warned even if additional wall sprinklers
were installed, the fire could spread significantly before the
sprinklers were activated.
chapter previous next