From time to time Australian building jurisdictions provide industry notifications. Yesterday the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) issued their Industry Alert February 2016 relating to External Walls, and BCA compliance.
The VBA has put their opinion forward regarding the compliance of composite panels. CertMark along with other certificate holders had a meeting with the Australian Building Codes Board late last year, where it was expressed that the opinions and views of the VBA are not shared amongst all jurisdictions. CMI recognises the role we play in the certification of your products, but also recognises that we are uniquely placed to provide support and assistance in the continued certification of your products.
The VBA has provided a definition of Cladding, whilst this term is not used substantially throughout the Code, it is useful.
In addition, the VBA has defined an external wall, being all integral elements that provide compliance, being structural or protection such as insulation and weatherproofing, must be non-combustible. The VBA details that combustible attachments are permitted for fire walls but not walls that do not require an FRL. The VBA details that ‘if external wall remains fully compliant, then the material or product is likely to be an attachment’. A key element is that the attachment can be removed and a compliant wall remains. We note that the VBA does not detail that a non-combustible lining is required behind the composite panel.
The VBA has highlighted that where a combustible lining or other attachment is fixed to an external wall, it must meet the fire hazard properties of Specification C1.10 and specifically attain a Group number of 1, 2 or 3. The VBA highlight that canopies clad in composite panels have not demonstrated appropriate compliance amongst other areas and that the panel must satisfy the relevant Performance Requirements.
It has been identified that the VBA industry alert addresses a combination of product and specific building design issues. The industry alert has provided a summary of how to achieve a Deemed-to-Satisfy solution. This solution option is based on the VBA opinion and presents its own challenge. A key factor in the continuance of the use of composite panels will require a greater understanding of the fire performance of the core material. It is recommended that the core material be tested to AS 1530.3. In addition, a greater level of specific installation detail such as around required exits is recommended.
We are developing a proposal for change to the BCA to continue the use of composite panels on all external walls of buildings. We will need the support of our composite panel certificate holders in this process. Furthermore, a strategy is required to continue the use of the products for the next three years. CMI is here to help. We aim to provide further guidance on the VBA industry Alert as developments occur. We do suggest that a greater knowledge of panels cores be a priority through AS 1530.3 testing. Given the VBA’s opinion, maintaining a Deemed-to-Satisfy product will not be available within Victoria. Enhancements to any Alternative Solution on the products will need to be considered.
We would appreciate any views or comments on this industry alert, please contact our friendly team members by email info@CertMark.org.