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What does the recent ban on PE ACP panels in NSW mean for the construction industry?

 

 

 

A good question given the recent announcement by the NSW Fair Trading’s Commissioner, Rose Webb, prohibiting the use of some types of combustible aluminium composite panels (ACPs) on certain building types.

Our technical team have extensively reviewed the notice issued by Fair Trading and share below their summary and views of what this means for the construction industry in NSW and for ACP products in general.

We have set this out in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) format for simplicity. If you still have unanswered questions after reading this blog, we would be more than happy to answer them for you. We have included a link at the bottom to submit additional questions for our technical team to answer and add to this list.

In our view, this ban is a well-reasoned and good initiative by the NSW Government with a view to ensuring safer buildings and restoring public and industry confidence. Fairview fully supports this ban.

What states and territories does this ban apply to?

This ban applies in NSW only and has some differences to the restrictions / bans imposed by other Australian Regulators, namely Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

What products does this ban apply to?

The NSW ban applies specifically to Aluminium Composite Panels (ACPs) with a core comprised of greater than 30% polyethylene (PE) by mass. They are prohibited from use on any external wall, cladding, façade etc, on building types A & B (as defined in the Building Code of Australia).

Are there any exceptions from the ban?

Yes, there are two exceptions from this ban being:

  1. the building product is not deemed combustible (non-combustible) when tested to AS1530.1; or
  2. the building product achieves a complete pass tested to the recently introduced AS5113 large scale fire propagation and classification test for external walls of buildings. (note: the wall and cladding must be constructed and installed in a manner identical to the tested prototype)

Additionally, testing of the above has to be completed on or after 1 July 2017, and by a NATA approved lab.

So what ACP’s does this ban not apply to?

This ban does not apply to products that:

  • Contain 30% or less combustible polyethylene.
  • Products that meet the exceptions

If my ACP is not affected by this ban, is it compliant?

No, a product exempted or not affected by this ban is not automatically deemed compliant. These products must still demonstrate compliance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

Note: most solid core ACPs contain combustible content in the core. Even if this is less than 30% it is likely they do not comply for use on type A & B buildings when tested in accordance with the BCA.

When does the ban take effect?

This building product use ban commenced on Wednesday 15 August 2018 and remains in force until it is revoked.

Why was the ban introduced?

Fair Trading has based their decision to implement the building product use ban on the following reasons:

  • PE core ACPs on type A & B construction pose a high fire safety risk due to combustibility
  • In particular, ACPs with more than 30% PE core products pose a safety risk that contravenes the BCA
  • The National Code of Construction is not currently sufficient to address these safety risks.

What does this mean for Vitrabond FR and its competitors?

Most reputable ACPs such as Vitrabond FR contain 30% or less PE (combustible content) in the core. This means that these products are not banned, however it also does not mean that they are compliant. These products still require stringent testing to demonstrate compliance or otherwise in accordance with the BCA.

Vitrabonds’ FR core has been independently tested by the CSIRO to confirm the percentage of PE. The CSIRO report confirms that the Vitrabond FR core contains 24.5% PE, we have included screenshots below and the full report is available on request. Vitrabond FR is therefore not affected by this ban.

 

What does this mean for Vitracore G2, is it affected by the ban?

No. Vitracore G2 is not affected by the ban as this does not contain any polyethylene at all. Furthermore, the test date requirement only applies to products trying to obtain an exception, and so is irrelevant for Vitracore G2.

Vitracore G2 was developed specifically in response to the need for a safer aluminium cladding product in the construction industry and remains one of the most tested and proven safe aluminium cladding options.

Vitracore G2 is unique in that the core is made of a profiled aluminium structure and therefore does not contain combustible content. When the aluminium skins are laminated to the aluminium core a microscopic film of adhesive (not PE) is used, this is well within the allowance of various building codes around the globe and tested and proven not to pose a fire hazard. The product is therefore deemed non-combustible.

Does this ban apply retrospectively?

Yes, the ban applies to the building product even if it was used on the building before the ban was in force.

An existing building that does not comply with the ban will become an ‘affected building’ within the meaning of the Act. The Commissioner can issue an affected building notice in respect of a building which must be given to the owners and occupiers of the building, the local council, a relevant enforcement authority and the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue. An affected building notice puts the parties on notice that the building is an affected building.

If you are concerned that your building may be an affected building, you should contact the local council or relevant enforcement authority to discuss what action should be taken.

More questions?

If the above information has not covered or answered your query, please click here to submit additional questions to our technical team. We will then add them to this blog.

Fairview strives to offer their expert advice to the construction industry through this and other educational blogs. If you would like to contact us directly, please phone 1800 007 175.

Disclaimer: this blog is intended to provide information to Fairview Architectural’s customers and contacts and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional advice. Fairview recommends that you always obtain appropriate independent professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances. 

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