ABCB Confirms Position on Timber Cladding in Wake of Crisis

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Timber Cladding on Building

After lengthy discussions with The Wood Cladding and External Fixtures Alliance, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released an Advisory Note regarding its decision on the use of timber cladding.

The note, which was issued 22 July, confirms that timber cladding is acceptable for all classes of buildings other than Class 2 and 3 low-rise buildings under the existing ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the National Construction Code. 

The concession reads as follows:

“A Class 2 or 3 building having a rise in storeys of not more than 3 need not comply with Clause 3.1(d) of Specification C1.1 and the requirements of C1.9(a), (b) and C2.6 for non-combustible material, if it is constructed using:

(i) timber framing throughout;
(ii) non-combustible material throughout;
(iii) a combination of (i) and (ii).

provided:

(iv) *****
(v) any insulation installed in the cavity of a wall required to have an FRL is non-combustible, and
(vi) the building is fitted with an automatic smoke alarm system complying with Specification E2.2a.”

The Wood Cladding and External Fixtures Alliance has released a statement calling the clarification “positive”, though it remains disappointed that timber cladding is still otherwise unacceptable for use in Class 2 and 3 buildings because it is classed as combustible, and therefore included in the blanket ban on combustible cladding for these building classes.

According to Paul Michael, chair of the Wood Cladding and External Fixtures Alliance, there is a general view that the impact on timber cladding from a blanket ban on all combustible cladding is an unintended consequence of the recent fires that have involved the more flammable aluminium composite panels and expanded polystyrene.

“We have not spoken to one Minister or ABCB member who believes that timber cladding poses a safety threat to the occupants of a building and no risk assessment has been done to demonstrate there is an unacceptable danger”, says Michael.

“The Alliance believes it would have been more appropriate for the ABCB to focus on the issue of fire safety and stipulate certain performance standards, which would have excluded the use of highly combustible cladding, but continued to allow timber and other suitable well-proven products that have significant environmental and aesthetic benefits.  However, the Board chose not to do this, although we understand there was significant debate about the best option.”

“As a result of the ABCB decision, it is absolutely critical all prospective owners, builders, building surveyors and certifiers understand that timber cladding can be used on all Class 1 buildings (houses) and other low-rise building Classes except three-storey Class 2 and 3 buildings.  In addition, we now understand we will need to find different pathways for Class 2 and 3 buildings.”

The Alliance has announced it will continue working to ensure timber cladding remains a viable environmental and sustainable alternative for owners of Class 2 and 3 buildings.

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