RYDE MAYOR, Jerome Laxale
‘The Berejiklian Government must release a list of all buildings that they know have a high-fire danger risk. They must also release details of their proposed assistance package to affected residents.’
Some buildings have been rated as having a lower risk however as with the 41-storey Neo200 apartment building, despite having the same cladding as the Grenfell Tower near its balconies, a council inspection of the building found the fire affected “essential safety measures” including the sprinkler system and fire alarms. The blaze covered six floors before it was extinguished!
Ryde cladding fears: The buildings tested for banned material
A special report lifts the lid on the buildings under investigation in northwest Sydney for having the same external combustible cladding that sparked the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017.
Matt Taylor, Urban affairs reporter, Northern District Times
July 23, 2019
Major high-rise developments in Sydney’s northwest and a Macquarie University building have formed part of a year-long secret investigation over fears they contain highly flammable cladding.
An investigation by the Northern District Times has uncovered nearly 20 buildings in the Ryde local government area suspected of having external combustible cladding amid calls for the State Government to reveal the full list of high-risk sites.
Some buildings have been confirmed as having compliant cladding since owners were issued with orders by Ryde Council last year. However, mystery still surrounds other residential and commercial buildings as follow-up independent testing drags on.
The Times has also obtained a confidential document revealing the addresses of 17 sites served with building compliance orders by Ryde Council since late 2018.
We have chosen not to publish the addresses where we could not verify whether the banned Polyethylene (PE) aluminium composite cladding did in fact exist on buildings.
Macquarie University was forced to remove dangerous cladding from its four-storey, decade-old clinical education facility at 192 Balaclava Road.
“Some cladding installed on part of the building was removed and replaced, with works completed on June 3, 2019, in compliance with the updated Building Code of Australia,” a university spokeswoman said.
Two Ryde apartment blocks built by Holdmark, the company owned by Sarkis Nassif, brother of fellow developer Jean Nassif, were issued with orders over concerns they had combustible cladding.
However, the property managers of 1 Hamilton Cres (called ‘The Row’) and 41-45 Belmore Rd (‘Oxford’), built by Holdmark, say that independent testing by engineers showed the cladding was compliant with building regulations.
The Fraser Group’s ‘Centrale’ properties, at 1-5 and 9-11 Delhi Rd, were also served with orders by the council — but they were also cleared of any having any banned cladding.
Two buildings in the Crown Group’s award-winning Top Ryde City Living apartments in Pope St were also feared to contain external combustible cladding. However, independent testing also showed they were compliant.
“We have a sophisticated fire-safety system in our buildings and it was deemed as no further action,” a Top Ryde Strata spokesman said.
One mixed-use building — at 297 Victoria Rd — is still being investigated for having non-compliant cladding.
A Strata spokeswoman said a special levy would be imposed on owners and tenants, including Anytime Fitness and an Italian restaurant, to raise $20,000 for any potential legal fight.
The spokeswoman said the Gladesville building was now registered on the cladding taskforce’s list of buildings under further investigations by engineers for banned cladding.
It’s understood the owners of the Anytime Fitness franchise and Mercato e Cucina are furious that they have been kept in the dark on the cladding concerns.
The Times’ investigation continues.
BUILDINGS SERVED NOTICES BY RYDE COUNCIL:
● 192 Balaclava Rd, Macquarie Park (Macquarie University’s $2.8m four-storey learning and teaching facility known as “Clinical education building for the faculty of medicine and health sciences”, built in 2008. FIXED)
● 3 and 4 Eden Park Drive, Macquarie Park (Rectification works taking place at the site.)
● 1 Hamilton Cres, Ryde (Holdmark Property Group’s ‘The Row’ apartments. CLEARED)
● Buildings B and F, 5 Pope St, Ryde (Top Ryde City Living & Apartments, completed in 2014. CLEARED)
● 41-45 Belmore St, Ryde (built in 2015, Holdmark development as part of Shepherds Bay Meadowbank Urban Renewal Project. CLEARED)
● 1-5 and 9-11 Delhi Rd, North Ryde (Fraser Property’s Centrale residential development. CLEARED)
● 297 Victoria Rd, Gladesville (Mixed-use building. Commercial tenants include Anytime Fitness and Mercato e Cucina. Awaiting an independent engineer’s further assessment.)
* Several other developers, builders and body corporates have yet to respond to the Times’ inquiries.
‘ON TINDER HOOKS’
Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale called on the State Government to release the full list of high-risk cladding buildings, which now total 629 across NSW.
“Our community needs more clarity and certainty for their buildings,” the Labor councillor said.
“It’s a ridiculous situation that people will have to find out in the press that their building may have cladding on it, when the State Government could have dealt with this in a better way.
“Residents’ safety should be put first. We did that when we started issuing orders.
“We’re now at a stage where those developers who haven’t responded, we’ll start enforcement and potential legal action.
“Residents need to know what’s going on. There are degrees of what’s dangerous and what’s not with cladding. And what I’m calling for is the public release of those buildings with a high fire-safety risk, along with a bigger assistance package for residents.
“If the government knows this is a tinderbox, then the people living in them should also know.”
Ryde State Liberal MP Victor Dominello said the government was “taking this matter very seriously” — but stopped short of making any financial commitments to help residents fix banned cladding.
“Owners, residents, strata organisations and businesses that could be affected by the potential risks have been notified,” Mr Dominello said.
“As of July 2019, Fire and Rescue NSW have inspected all properties that were identified as potentially being impacted by cladding and referred high risk properties to the relevant consent authority.
“Fire and Rescue NSW has also taken steps to strengthen fire safety plans and procedures relating to ‘high-risk’ buildings to mitigate some of the risks in the unlikely event a fire occur at one of these properties prior to any remediation work that may be necessary.”
An industry expert has traced the cladding crisis back to “weak” government testing in the late 1970s as he estimates the national cost of fixing high fire-risk buildings could top $10 billion.
Daron Hodder, a senior industry figure over the past decade, estimates there has been a whopping 16.44 million sqm of the highly flammable ‘PE’ (Polyethylene) core cladding sold in Australia since 1980, with a most of it going into buildings since the mid-1990s.
“The Federal Government should never have allowed our buildings to be clad in petrol,” Mr Hodder, who has sold the safer ‘FR’ (fire retardant) core cladding since 2000, said.
“Buildings with the PE material can be well alight in 20-30 minutes.
“There’s five-and-a-half litres of petrol per square metre in this petroleum-based product. That’s how flammable it is.”
He said the National Construction Code was “at fault” for allowing the PE product to first enter the country after it passed a standard called AS1530 part 3 back in 1977 at CSIRO North Ryde’s testing facility.
The ACLAD Architectural Facade Cladding Solutions director said while the CSIRO followed the rules, “their standards of testing here are rubbish”.
“Any new product coming onto the market should be fully tested,” Mr Hodder said.
“The whole thing started — and could have been stopped — by the CSIRO. I started selling it back in 1980 — and as a young person, I thought it must be OK because it passes as an Australian standard.
“I’m meeting with the federal Industry Minister (Karen Andrews) next week about this, because we don’t have the leaders with real backbone to fix this massive problem.”
The NSW Cladding Taskforce says in its July 4 update that Fire and Rescue NSW has identified 629 buildings across the state as being high-risk.
“I have the sales figures (for the Polyethylene product) for all of Australia, and the NSW figure is correct,” Mr Hodder said. “And while it might be less than Victoria, which has 2600 high-risk buildings, it’s scary enough.”
The first legal battle against a supplier of combustible cladding started earlier this year, when litigation funder IMF Bentham and William Roberts Lawyers filed a class action in the Federal Court of Australia against the German producer of Alucobond Polyethylene-core aluminium composite panels.
Mr Hodder said all state governments need to fix the high-risk buildings “immediately”, then join a class action against the suppliers.
“We’ve just been lucky to date that there haven’t been deaths,” he said.
“We’ve known about this problem for many years — and we desperately need an independent umpire to oversee this.”
The CSIRO did not respond to questions.