Combustible Cladding

The Big Issue Downunder



Photo of Juliet Landler

Juliet Landler

Principal Engineer




When it comes to the subject of building enclosure in Australia, one topic has eclipsed all others in recent years: combustible cladding. It has even led a few governmental officials to request a ban on the use of all laminated or composite materials in construction. Their call stems from the widespread misuse of aluminum composite panels (ACP) that contain no fire retardants as exterior cladding. While there had been murmurs within the construction industry about the extent of this transgression for years, it was the tragedy at Grenfell Tower that brought the issue to the forefront and that has triggered a raft of new legislation, lawsuits, and re-cladding contracts. This paper seeks to provide an overview of current cladding crisis in Australia based on observations made from auditing hundreds of buildings with ACP installations and working with their fire-safety engineers, certifiers, architects, owners, fire brigades and councils to find reasonable solutions. It also aims to lay out some of the key challenges faced by all parties in resolving the crisis so that a constructive discussion can be had.


Even before the fires began raging in Australia this summer, the subject of combustibility had been headlining the papers regularly. For the last few years journalists have been exposing on

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Background (The Composite Cladding Sampling Process)

For the last few years our company has been actively engaged in determining what type of combustible cladding products, and primarily ACP, has been installed where. We have reviewed first-hand

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Sampling thousands of buildings across Australia not only has given us firsthand knowledge of the range of composite cladding products installed, but also the manner in which these products have

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PE ACP products do not meet the conditions set out in the National Construction Code of Australia (NCC) for the exterior cladding for commercial, institutional and larger residential buildings. The

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Building designers and specifiers, fire-safety engineers and certifiers are all rightly concerned that they might have to foot a large part of the bill. In the case of Melbourne’s LaCrosse

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Challenges and Discussion

So not only has the ACP crisis has led to the current situation where it now currently difficult to engage a certifier in Australia, it also unearthed some other troublesome

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The author is indebted to current and former Arcadis colleagues Todd Byrnes, Peter Cauchois, Bill Chant, Kevin Hunt, Hugh Keithly, Neil McClelland and David Smith, for their contributions to this subject through many worthwhile conversations.

Rights and Permissions

Australian Building Codes Board. (2019). National Construction Code Volume Two - Building Code of Australia. Retrieved from

Bleby, Michael. “Replace the cladding on that building? Only if it’s in Queensland.” Financial Review, 22 May 2019

Boake, Terri Meyer. “When Facade Kill: A problem of extreme flammability.” Proceedings Facade Tectonics 2018 World Congress

Calvert, Scott, Bob Tita, Rachel Pannett, Nikhil Lohade. “Buildings Across U.S. Are Wrapped in Same Panels That Fueled Deadly London Fire.” The Wall Street Journal, Oct 24 2017. “Incoming combustible cladding obligations for NSW building owners.” October 31, 2018.

Dunstan, Joseph. “Lacrosse apartment owners awared $5.7 million in damages after flammable cladding blaze.” ABC News, March 1 2019.

Four Corners. “Combustible: The dangerous legacy of failed regulation in the building industry.” Reported by Debbie Whitmont. Presented by Sarah Ferguson. ABC, August 31, 2017.

Mohaney, Priyanka, Soni, Gaurav. “Aluminium Composite Panel as a Facade Material.” International Journal of Engineering Trends and Technology (IJETT) 55 (2018): 75-80.