Grenfell Tower fire: How can I be sure the cladding on my building is safe?

It sparked apartment building safety audits in countries including the United Kingdom and Australia.

Here’s how you can make sure your building is safe.

Is all cladding dangerous?

No. Combustible aluminium composite cladding can be safe if it is installed and used correctly in accordance with the National Construction Code.

It can pose a potential danger if it is used in ways which contravene the code — for example, on the external walls of buildings.

“There are products which can be used in certain ways that can be safe in certain scenarios,” said Steven Halliday from global fire-testing company Exova Warringtonfire.

Mr Halliday, whose company tests products to determine whether they meet the requirements under the code for the purpose they are being used for, has noticed an increase in business since the 2014 Lacrosse apartment fire in Melbourne.

The Australian Building Codes Board website can help you find out if products meet the national standards and report the use of non-conforming building products.

What should I do if I’m worried about the cladding on my building?

You should get in contact with the owner of the building and also ensure that your building’s fire safety systems are working correctly, according to the chief executive of Fire Protection Association Australia, Scott Williams.

Mr Williams said if you are the owner you should talk to the building surveyor who certified your property.

You can ask them to re-check whether the cladding was installed correctly and was an appropriate product for the way it was intended to be used.

Another option is to raise your concerns with your local council or the regulatory authority in your state.

Who is responsible for making sure cladding is used safely?

While the National Construction Code is a federal responsibility and sets the rules for the safe use of products around Australia, state governments are in charge of administering and enforcing it.

Every state runs their system differently but a high level of responsibility is given to builders and building surveyors to ensure that cladding is used in a way which meets the requirements of the code.

Who will have to pay to fix a cladding problem?

Andrew Chambers, a national board member of Strata Community Australia, said there was a lot of concern among strata owners, who could ultimately be left to deal with a cladding problem they were not aware of when they bought their property.

This could happen if owners could not contact a builder or the building’s warranty had expired.

“Buildings are pretty much unsaleable or unrentable until they are fixed,” he said

“It’s a huge issue and it’s not a cheap issue and it’s going to be very expensive to fix.”

Mr Chambers said owners can take action against builders, including via their state’s regulatory authority, although builders were often reliant on the subcontractors who order and install the products.

But he warned it could be a lengthy and expensive process, with the owners of the Lacrosse building still embroiled in legal action against their builder.