Cheap Chinese building materials pose safety risk, says Boral's Mike Kane

Cheap Chinese building materials pose safety risk, says Boral's Mike Kane
Cheap Chinese building materials pose safety risk, says Boral's Mike Kane

The use of cheap building materials imported from China could be compromising people's safety, according to construction materials company Boral Limited chief executive Mike Kane.

Concerns about cladding on buildings have been raised in the aftermath of the fire at London's  Grenfell Tower last week in which at least 79 people are feared killed.

The fire has led to speculation about the causal factors and raised questions about the role of building products

Kane, who saw several of his products boycotted by unions in Australia due to industrial action, said he was concerned about cheaper materials flooding into the country and being used for the apartment boom, The Australian Financial Review reported.

"The lure of cheap Chinese products that don't meet western standards is part of what has happened in England and Melbourne," Kane told the AFR.

"They do tend to be cheaper and that can be an incentive [for developers]."

The increased use of environment-efficient materials over safety standards could also pose a risk, added Kane.

"There are people who are so focused on climate change that they are forgetting safety. We have multiple obligations when building but the first is structural - the building shouldn't collapse and fire safety is fundamental of all."

Cladding on buildings may not comply with the Building Code of Australia either because of incorrect labelling - an issue industry bodies such as Ai Group have campaigned over - or because builders or subcontractors incorrectly use a product in a role other than that for which it is suited.

Melbourne's Lacrosse building, which caught fire in 2014, is a case in point. Aluminium composite panels of the sort used in Lacrosse are up to standard when used the right way internally but not when put on the outside of the building, as they are not strong enough to withstand fire. 

Last year, the Victorian Building Authority regulator referred building surveyor Anastasios Galanos for disciplinary action by the Building Practitioners Board, alleging he breached the Building Act and regulations when he certified the Lacrosse tower as compliant. 

Last July, imported roofing panels in Perth's newly built Children's Hospital were discovered to contain asbestos. A week later Australian Border Force suspended all imports by materials supplier Yuanda Australia. 

Private construction group Built chief executive Brett Mason also questioned some of the quality of Chinese products in the market.

"There was a flood of products that came in with the right stamps but some of the fittings and cladding were poorer quality and in some cases it looked as though it may not have been given genuine approval," Mason said.

"We now go and test everything ourselves even if it has a stamp of approval on it."


Safety Construction Materials


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