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Balcony sprinklers may become mandatory

Issues surrounding non-conforming construction products were the focus of the 2015 Building Minister’s Forum, held last week. Public safety was a primary concern, with one possible outcome of the forum being mandated fire sprinklers for apartment balconies.

Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne put forward the proposal, linking the changes to a Docklands apartment fire in November 2014 that was found to be in part fuelled by the use of non-compliant cladding.

“All the states have today recognised the need for a stronger building products accreditation system to help prevent fire tragedies in our high rises,” he said.

“We must act on this as a matter of priority, to ensure that the lives of people in the community are safe and not put at risk.”

Other key outcomes from the meeting include:

  • A working group of senior officers was established to develop strategies to reduce the risks non-conforming products pose to businesses, consumers and the wider community
  • The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) will investigate the implementation of a mandatory scheme for high risk building products that can affect lives and safety
  • The ABCB will look at potential amendments to the National Construction Code that would require fire sprinklers to be included on all covered balconies in multi-storey developments
  • The ministers agreed to make efforts to reduce the “red tape” caused when local government planning schemes exceed the National Construction Code by limiting variations to the code.

The forum is made up of ministers from all of the states and territories that are responsible for the regulation of the plumbing and construction industries.

Earlier in July, the Australian Institute of Architects joined other built environment organizations asking the ministers involved in the meeting to tackle the issues around the potential widespread use of non-conforming products.

Both the working group and the ABCB will report back to the ministers within six months.

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