The 470 owners of the Lacrosse Docklands apartments could end up with a multi-million dollar bill after the Building Appeals Board ordered them to remove the combustible cladding on the building’s exterior. The imported material was found to pose a "significant and unacceptable" risk to hundreds of residents.
According to the Board, the existing Alucobest cladding did not meet the relevant performance requirements of the Building Code of Australia. It also quashed a proposal by the builder LU Simon to install balcony sprinklers and wall wetting sprinklers, saying it was not satisfied the sprinklers would operate properly during high-wind conditions.
This decision also means that the Lacrosse apartment owners will have to spend at least $8.6 million to replace the cladding, on top of $6.5 million already spent to fix damage from the catastrophic fire of November 2014.
Questions have also been raised on the building’s safety after the board found that the balconies continued to be cluttered with residents’ possessions. This clutter helped fuel the 2014 building fire caused by the combustible cladding. The Melbourne City Council's building surveyor had certified the Lacrosse building as safe to occupy on the condition that interim safety measures such as keeping balconies clutter-free and preventing overcrowding were in place.
Given that the Building Appeals Board is yet to set a date for the cladding to be removed and a Supreme Court appeal is also likely on the latest decision, Fire Protection Association Australia chief executive Scott Williams is concerned the issue would drag on for some more time. Additional safety concerns have also been raised by an engineering expert on the absence of fire separation within or between floors in the tower.
Some of the apartment owners have sought $15 million in compensation from the builder in an ongoing Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal case.