ICPS Australia: Cladding testing essential to avoid fires

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Potentially dangerous building cladding can be easily tested to determine its flammability, says engineering and business consultancy ICPS Australia.

CEO Brad Nicholls said ICPS Australia Pty Ltd, in conjunction with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists, developed a testing regime, which it has made available to its major client base, the insurance industry, since 2015.

“It is tragic that the loss of life in London’s Grenfell Tower has been the catalyst to put this serious issue higher on the agenda for insurers and building industry regulators,” Mr Nicholls said.

“While non-conforming cladding has not been formally identified as the culprit in the London blaze, it has been suggested as a reason the fire spread so quickly.”

The UK’s Chancellor Phillip Hammond was reported at the weekend as saying cladding used on Grenfell Tower was banned.

“After the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne’s Docklands caught fire in November 2014, we suggested to insurers that cladding be tested because of the obvious risk it poses if it is non-conforming,” Mr Nicholls said.

“Non-conforming aluminium composite panels (ACP) were identified as contributing to the Lacrosse fire’s rapid spread, so we decided a test method and flammability index was needed to help identify buildings that posed a risk of cladding ignition.”

Dr Wendy Miller, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, worked with QUT’s materials and combustion specialists and ICPS Australia to devise a test methodology for cladding on existing buildings.

Dr Miller said: “It is important that building owners and occupiers, and their insurers, have credible information about building products. Because building documentation for residential construction is frequently non-existent, incomplete or not credible, it was important to devise a way in which ACP already installed on buildings could be tested to identify potential risk.”

Mr Nicholls said ICPS Australia combined the core sample test reports with other building information to develop a more complete picture of potential risk.

“Our comprehensive testing regime provides building owners and insurers with essential knowledge about the flammability of ACP’s core fill material and other factors that can contribute to the risk, allowing them to make informed decisions about managing risk and the safety of building occupants,” Mr Nicholls said.

“That knowledge can obviously be lifesaving in avoiding tragedies like the Grenfell Tower disaster.”

ICPS Australia is compiling a submission for the Queensland Parliament’s Public Works & Utilities Committee, which is inquiring into proposed legislation to tighten the chain of responsibility for non-conforming building products.

ICPS Australia, as a leading insurance engineering and building consultancy, frequently inspects properties for defects and compliance breaches. The company prepares condition reports and conducts insurance causation and pre and post-loss investigations and surveys.


Mike Quinlan, Business Development Manager, ICPS Australia Pty Ltd
P: 0457 775 955 E: mike.quinlan@icps.net.au


About ICPS Australia
ICPS Australia provides independent consulting services to the insurance industry and other clients. Its specialist team has engineering, building, design, construction, project management and investigative experience. ICPS Australia is a specialist in post-disaster rebuilds for the insurance industry. Visit http://www.icps.net.au/.


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