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Between July 2017 and June 2019, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Building and Energy division coordinated Western Australia’s State-wide Cladding Audit.
The audit was part of an Australia-wide initiative to check the cladding on high-risk buildings following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London that claimed 72 lives in 2017.
The use of combustible cladding was identified as a factor in the rapid spread of fire through the Grenfell Tower and during a 2014 incident at the Lacrosse building in Melbourne.
The scope of Western Australia’s State-wide Cladding Audit was limited to all Building Code of Australia (BCA) Class 2, 3, 4 and 9 buildings three storeys or greater, built or refurbished after 1 January 2000. These classes of buildings are considered high-risk as they typically include places where people sleep (apartments, hotels and caretaker accommodation), or they house vulnerable occupants (hospitals, nursing homes and child-care centres) or they cater for high-occupancy events (entertainment venues and public buildings).
Building and Energy carried out the audit of 1,795 privately owned buildings that were identified as falling under the scope of the audit in relation to the building class, height and age. A physical inspection of these buildings identified 475 with suspected combustible cladding. This was further reduced to 258 buildings following a preliminary risk assessment.
A more detailed risk assessment resulted in no building being identified as an extreme risk, 38 buildings were found to be moderate risk and 14 buildings were considered high risk.
The affected buildings were referred to the relevant local government permit authorities for liaison with building owners and enforcement action. Building and Energy continues to provide assistance and monitor the progress of remediation work.
Building and Energy also assisted State Government departments, agencies and universities with coordinating the audit of 1,914 public and university buildings which quickly cleared 1,783 from further review. Of the remaining buildings, 38 were found to require some type of remedial action.
The State-wide Cladding Audit report has been published. Building and Energy will also continue to publish periodic status updates about the progress of remediation work of private and public buildings:
September 2020: State-wide cladding audit report
October 2018: Commerce Minister media statement – New regulations to improve the safe use of combustible cladding
May 2018: Commerce Minister media statement – Cladding audit progresses as Grenfell fire anniversary approaches
February 2018: Building and Energy guidance note – Fire engineering assessment of external cladding
October 2017: Building and Energy fact sheet – Fire safety in existing apartment buildings
July 2017: Building and Energy media statement – State-wide cladding audit underway
August 2016: Australian Building Codes Board advisory note – Fire Performance of External Walls and Cladding
April 2016: Building and Energy interim audit report – Aluminium composite panelling in high-rise buildings (this audit was already underway at the time of the State-wide Cladding Audit, which had a broader scope and incorporated the aluminium composite panel audit work)
March 2016: Building and Energy industry bulletin – Industry Bulletin 62: Victorian Building Authority external wall cladding audit report
May 2015: Building and Energy industry bulletin – Industry Bulletin 54: External wall cladding – fire safety
The Building Commissioner is bound by confidentiality and is unable to disclose information obtained during the performance of his or her functions unless certain exemptions exist. The Building Commissioner has formed a view that it is not in the public interest to publicly disclose details of individual buildings. Not publicly naming the private buildings also offered protection against potential arson attacks while the cladding was still in place.
However, it must be emphasised that building owners and (where applicable) strata managers have been regularly updated about the audit progress for their particular site, and they are responsible for informing occupants about any relevant issues. Remediation work has now been completed on the majority of buildings to resolve the concerns about combustible cladding.
Queries about public and university buildings included in the audit should be directed to the responsible department, agency or university as they coordinated assessments of their own buildings.
Building and Energy worked with individual owners and Strata Community Australia WA (SCA WA), as a representative group of strata managers, to ensure private building owners were updated in relation to the progress of the audit.
SCA WA and the relevant local governments assisted Building and Energy by identifying the building owners and representatives for buildings assessed in the audit.
Building and Energy assisted owners by undertaking a preliminary assessment to determine whether the presence of cladding on their building posed a level of risk that warranted further investigation. A fire engineer was engaged to assist the cladding audit team with preliminary assessments and other activities as required. Any testing was facilitated and funded by Building and Energy on behalf of owners.
Following the completion of the preliminary assessment of their building, Building and Energy wrote to all building owners with further advice depending on the level of risk identified.
The timeframes will vary depending on the building and the scale of its cladding issue.
However, building owners have a vested interest in ensuring their property is safe. We expect any remediation action will be a priority for building owners – not only for the safety and comfort of their occupants, but also to ensure their building fulfils insurance requirements.
In the case of private buildings referred to local government, if a building order is issued, by law the building owner must comply with the order unless an application is made to the State Administrative Tribunal for review of the decision to make the building order.
Building and Energy will continue to publish regular status updates on this website to monitor the progress of remedial action at affected sites.
Aluminium composite panels (ACPs) on the façade were found to have contributed to the rapid spread of fire at the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 and the Lacrosse apartments in Melbourne in 2014. However, not all ACPs are dangerous. They are usually manufactured in a range of grades that can be used appropriately in some circumstances. Identifying ACPs on an existing building, including the combustible version of the product, is not necessarily cause for concern. It depends on whether the cladding is used in accordance with the applicable codes and standards.
Building and Energy has published a Fire safety in existing apartment buildings fact sheet, to remind building owners, managers and occupants about their roles and responsibilities in keeping themselves and their buildings fire safe.
Residents with concerns about cladding should contact their building manager in the first instance. Building managers should raise any concerns about a building’s cladding with the builder. If building managers are unsure who the builder was they should contact the relevant local government.
If dissatisfied with their builder’s response, the building manager or owner may wish to speak to the building surveyor who certified the building or engage a suitably qualified fire engineer to carry out a performance assessment of the cladding to ensure it does not pose an unacceptable risk of fire spread.
If their building has been completed in the past six years, property owners may be able to lodge a building services complaint with Building and Energy. They will need to provide evidence to support their complaint.
Anyone associated with an apartment building who is concerned that the building managing body (often referred to as the body corporate) is not taking these fire safety concerns seriously is asked to contact Building and Energy at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 489 099.
Western Australian building legislation requires buildings to comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which includes requirements on fire safety. In general the BCA Volume 1 contains provisions for external walls of buildings falling under type A and type B construction (typically medium rise and high-rise commercial buildings including residential apartment buildings) to be non-combustible.
Further information for building surveyors, builders, designers and owners is provided in Industry Bulletin 54: External wall cladding – fire safety.
The BCA was updated in March 2018 to remove any ambiguity around the use of combustible cladding on buildings.
Any combustible cladding proposed to be used on those buildings needs to demonstrate it has passed the large-scale fire test required under Australian Standard AS 5113 or receive approval from the Building Commissioner.
In October 2018, the Commerce Minister announced the introduction of building regulations to restrict the future use of combustible material on building facades of high-risk buildings in Western Australia. The new building regulations prevent the use of performance solutions by restricting the use of combustible cladding to those that can demonstrate compliance under the BCA's new verification method. This method also includes the requirement for sprinklers in high-risk buildings.
The update to the BCA and the introduction of the new building regulations will substantially prevent the use of dangerous polyethylene (PE) cladding or an expanded polystyrene cladding in a building facade.
Any non-compliant use of cladding should be reported to the local government permit authority in the first instance.
All building work in Western Australia must comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which is a performance-based document with nationally consistent, minimum necessary standards for relevant safety (including structural safety and safety from fire), health, amenity and sustainability objectives.
The BCA was updated in March 2018 to remove any ambiguity around the use of combustible cladding on buildings. Any combustible cladding proposed to be used on those buildings needs to demonstrate it has passed the large-scale fire test required under Australian Standard AS 5113 or receive approval from the Building Commissioner.
In October 2018, the McGowan Government introduced new building regulations to restrict future use of combustible material on building facades of high-risk buildings. The new building regulations prevent the use of performance solutions by resticting the use of combustible cladding to those that can demonstrate compliance under the Building Code of Australia’s (BCA) new verification method.
This method also includes the requirement for sprinklers in high-risk buildings.
The update to the BCA and the introduction of the new building regulations will substantially prevent the use of dangerous polyethylene (PE) cladding or an expanded polystyrene cladding in a building facade. These amendments are not retrospective.
Building surveyors have a role in certifying buildings’ compliance with applicable building standards. This includes checking compliance with applicable building standards when issuing a certificate of design compliance (CDC) for the purpose of obtaining a building permit before building work can commence and issuing a certificate of building compliance or construction compliance when applying for an occupancy permit.
The builder’s role includes ensuring that the correct materials have been used in the construction. The builder must ensure that on completion the building complies with the plans and specifications that are specified in the applicable CDC and applicable building standards.
The Building Commissioner, through the Building Services Board, registers builders and building surveyors.
As part of its proactive measures, the Building Commissioner conducts audits of building service providers on a random and targeted basis.
Should a builder or building surveyor be found to have failed to meet their obligations under the Building Services (Registration) Act 2011, the Building Services Board or State Administrative Tribunal have a range of disciplinary actions/outcomes available to them, which include a caution, reprimand, fines, requiring further training to be undertaken, placing conditions on a builder’s registration or deregistering the builder or building surveyor. There are also offences under the Building Act 2011 for failure to comply with applicable building standards, which may result in fines or imprisonment for repeated offences.
Permit authorities, usually the local government, have powers under the building legislation to enforce the compliance, maintenance and safety of buildings within their jurisdiction. In the event a building’s cladding is found to be dangerous the permit authority can issue a building order requiring that it brought to a safe state.