Builder agrees to replace flammable cladding on Lacrosse tower in Docklands

Builder agrees to replace flammable cladding on Lacrosse tower in Docklands
Builder agrees to replace flammable cladding on Lacrosse tower in Docklands

The builder behind Melbourne’s Lacrosse apartment towers which caught fire in 2014 has agreed to replace the combustible cladding on the tower.

It comes as Melbourne authorities move to undertake an audit of some 1400 buildings.

Up to 1400 Victorian buildings could have potentially dangerous panelling according to the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, chaired by former premier Ted Baillieu and former deputy premier John Thwaites.

It was created in July after the Grenfell fire.

The interim report into the extent of non-compliant cladding across Victoria concluded there had been a culture of non-compliance throughout the building sector that has meant combustible cladding has become a widespread material used on multi-storey buildings.

"This culture has to change," Prof Thwaites said in a statement.

It found that around 1400 non-government buildings most likely have aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core or expanded polystyrene panels, but need inspecting to confirm the materials are present.

"Cladding is much more complicated and widespread than we first thought," Planning Minister Richard Wynne said.

Wynne said the Victorian Building Authority would have to "lift their game."

He allocated $5 million for a statewide audit, while adding all of the buildings would be safe to occupy.

The aim is to inspect 10 per cent of buildings each calendar year, up from two per cent.

LU Simon Builders have been involved in a legal dispute with unit owners over the damage bill to the Lacrosse building in La Trobe Street in the Docklands.

The fire, sparked off by a discarded cigarette, started a national debate again this year on flammable cladding after the London Grenfell tower fire

“(This is) so that the owners and residents are not inconvenienced any further by the lengthy legal process which is underway at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that will decide how the costs are to be divided up between the various parties,” a statement by the builder said which was carried by The Herald Sun.

“As part of the VCAT action LU Simon will in turn seek to recover the cost of the replacement works.”

The company expressed confidence that it could reach an agreement with the owners corporation, apartment owners and the municipal building surveyor soon, which would allow work on the replacement to commence in early 2018.

Fairfax Media reported that the builder LU Simon had made a scathing assessment of architect Elenberg Fraser's role on Melbourne's Lacrosse residential tower, accusing the design firm of failing to meet its contractual requirements over cladding used on the building.

In a 33-page expert witness report prepared for the builder – when fighting damages claims by the building owners in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal – saw LU Simon argued Elenberg Fraser did not fulfil the terms of its contract because it did not clearly specify a cladding product for the building as required.

Elenberg Fraser disputed Bullen's report, saying it had been written without seeing Elenberg Fraser's own arguments.

"The report has been delivered early in the proceeding and before there has been any production or inspection of the large volume of documentation held by the parties in respect of the design and construction of the Lacrosse building," Elenberg Fraser's solicitor Sarah Metcalfe of Norton Rose Fulbright said.

"The report is based on a number of incorrect assumptions."

Testing found the cladding on the building to be combustible and Melbourne City Council order it to be replaced – at an estimated cost of $16 million or $40,000 per apartment.

Owners had been fighting to make the builder pay for replacement, but the builder had refused earlier.

The works were required to be completed by July 2018.

City of Melbourne Municipal Building Surveyor Steven Baxas welcomed the builder’s decision, and expressed the hope other builders would follow suit if their buildings had similar flammable cladding. 

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Fire Apartment Cladding

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