12-12 May 2022
MELBOURNE

5 KEY TAKEAWAYS | Conformance & Compliance: In the Wake of the Lacrosse Fire, How Are We Resolving Issues?

Sep 10, 2021 Policy & Trends

The Lacrosse fire that occurred in 2014 was a first for Melbourne, bringing about many questions regarding compliance and regulatory processes in the built environment industry.

A few years on, our expert panel of industry leading voices and names, will be exploring the changes that have occurred since the 2014 fire, and what the implications are for design and building professionals. If you missed the live session or would simply like a recap, here are the key inisghts that came out of the session from our virtual 2021 Be Summit.

1. Fires make headlines – Changes and Actions.

There are a lot more issues in the building industry as stated in the 2018 Building Confidence Report. Following the report there have been a number of actions in Australia.

“People have started to use the test reports. There’s a heightened awareness of product testing. We’ve made test reports easier to read. There is a tendency that in pre-Lacrosse, a test report or certificate would be bundled in a compliance package. A lot more people are interrogating what it means and how that test report applies to the project” says Dr Mark Burgess.

“There’s a lot to do. Revamp the QA system to track compliance and confirmation to legislation, lifting rigour in obtaining compliance from appropriate practitioners from the outset and starting from the outset as well as changing architects focus away from aesthetics to technical and specification compliance around design” mentioned Michael Adams,

“Yes, I have seen positive results in the building surveyors and Victoria has made significant change. Performance solutions have had some focus and rigour around it. We have a fair way to go in that space. In Victoria there’s a need for reliance on contractors and designers rather than surveyors. We are only halfway there. There’s lots of things we need to do to improve the outcomes in the industry” said Andrew Cialini on the matter.

2. Education

The focus has recently increased in education for inspections and auditing, evolving over the last 2-3 years. Data collection has been highlighted as very important, with education pieces on higher risk items identified as key. Enforcement also has been seen as a topic becoming heavily important. The panel did note that there is a need for a heavier focus on education – focusing on discipline and enforcement, including removing ignorance and implementing harsher means for those that ignore. Rigorously policing through practice, design and construction. We aren’t quite there yet.

It was also discussed that the judgement on Lacrosse will have an impact on education programs in universities. For example on the subjects of duty of care, and the case of Grenfel Tower – the architect whom he admitted he didn’t read the fire regulations.

The common consensus from speakers was that we as an industry, now have to recover. This includes going back to the traditional ways of doing things, highlighting the ideal that knowledge is key, and understanding the complex requirements of the sector moving forward.

3. Where is the Australian building industry now?

On a numbered scale, the panel noted that we are sitting on a lower score of about 5 or 6. This can be seen “as reflective on the systems in which we work rather than the suppliers” noted Burgess.

Architects are doing a good job on compliance, however what we are looking at is improving that group of practitioners (build/designers) through identifying where the issues are – not just fire. This branches out to the problems in waterproofing buildings and fire treatment of buildings, which at the current time can be seen as not being done so well. “We have a fair way to go in the private developer/residential sector. We are pretty good in other areas, for example Government agencies and purchases of buildings, the controls are much better there” said Adams.

It was agreed that it is difficult to police anything onsite, with product identification proving to be an issue on site when packaging is removed and installed. There are also many variations on products, with different densities, making it difficult to determine the difference. The tools being used need to be looked at more in-depth to make it easy onsite, as well as markings on how to store product onsite, these are the things the panel noted that contractors need to work towards.

4. If a building was built today – would the Lacrosse fire happen?

The common answer between speakers, you just don’t know. There are all sorts of reasons as to why they happen. In the case of the Lacrosse fire, it was the flammable cladding from the cigarette butt. It was said that you can’t think of every possible fire problem that can arise, however it would be slim these days due to the level of comprehensive rigour and performance regulations put in place in recent years following the event. It would be less and less likely as we spend more time on compliance.

5. Performance Based Solutions & Final Words

With performance based solutions, it seems it’s not just about conformity but about it being used the right way. It’s not just reading the test report, it’s the supply chain being in tune with delivering the product in the standard application. Nowadays, the tradesperson are trying to understand the architects thinking in using the product in a non-standard way.

“Looking at it from a building surveyor perspective, we need practitioners within the process to be accountable. It’s about building that understanding and knowledge in the entire system to intercept issues, not just rely on the building surveyor as the gatekeeper” said Andrew Cialini.

“We need more input from the entire supply chain (building designer, architect, trades, etc.). The system has evolved over the last 10-15+years for the building surveyor to be the gatekeeper. Others in the system have less and less responsibility” he continued.

“Information! We treat it as an enforcement problem. It is an information problem – information about a product to allow the product to be used appropriately. There is a need to demonstrate to the surveyor and designer in order for them to be able to use the tools properly. We can do a whole lot better to get information on each product” noted Dr Mark Burgess.

“All practitioners in the industry need to collaborate on this. There is an opportunity to invest in education from the start for each practitioner. We don’t have the training regimes (for architects) in place that are needed– they were criticised in the latest Building Report. Everyone needs to be able to understand their role and responsibility in the delivery of a construction or of a design” said Adams on the education needed on this matter.

To close off the session, panel host Richard Choy noted one simple topic of utmost importance, “Professionalism. Near enough is not good enough”.

Watch the full discussion below!

Panelists:

  • Richard Choy | CEO | NATSPEC
  • Dr Mark Burgess | Director, Infrastructure Technologies | CSIRO
  • Michael Adams | FRAIA
  • Andrew Cialini | State Building Surveyor, Victoria | Victorian Building Authority
A big thank you to our speakers for being a part of the 2021 Be Summit virtual event! Subscribe now to receive upcoming event and industry news straight to your inbox.
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