Combustible cladding is back in the news again with renewed calls to publicly identify buildings where such materials have been used.
The desire for more information about whether a building is safe is completely understandable, but we also need to be guided by the advice of our security and emergency services agencies. If they say that full public disclosure creates a risk of arson and other threats, then we should listen to this advice – which is what state and territory governments have universally decided to do.
Of course people who need to know this information should. Where unacceptable combustible cladding risks are identified, it is important for regulators or owners to communicate with occupants about what these risks are and how they are going to be addressed.
Most of the media focus has been on government-led audits which have rightly concentrated on apartment buildings, hospitals and other building types that present a particular life safety risk. Meanwhile, commercial building owners have been getting on with the job of auditing their portfolios, assessing risk and fixing what needs to be fixed.
But this important work is held back by the lack of a clear regulatory pathway for commercial building owners and managers. Where cladding issues are identified, the industry needs a consistently applied approach to risk assessment and rectification – one set of guidelines for one country.
When rectification is required, there should be some type of recognition by governments that the risks have been addressed, so that owners can advise tenants, insurers, investors, valuers and any future transaction counter-parties.
And the industry continues to be challenged by a lack of available professionals to carry out the works and insurance cost and availability.
Dealing with the legacy issue of combustible cladding is a vitally important issue. It demands cool heads and calm voices to focus on the real risks that do exist. And it also needs the supportive frameworks to help commercial owners get on with the job of addressing issues on their buildings. Providing a safe environment in our buildings is something that everyone supports.