Security and facilities managers waiting for flammable cladding to be removed from buildings they protect will have to wait until the end of 2021 before the process even starts.

After multiple fires, including the Grenfell fire in London and the Lacrosse Apartments fire in Melbourne, regulations in NSW have been altered to require flammable claddings like aluminium panels, metal sheets and fire cement panels, to be replaced with cavity barriers with fire-proof mechanical fixings and non-combustible cement render.

But cladding removal from first of 214 towers affected in NSW won’t start until the end of the year and the process is likely to take many years to complete, putting building occupants at risk.

Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said every component recommended in the initial list had to meet the highest fire-safety standard.

“We want to ensure that those buildings are returned to their owners safely, securely and be able to be insured,” he said. “We have heard very clearly from consumers that they want it done right and they want it done the first time,” he said. “They don’t want to come back in a few years’ time.”

Anderson said he believed that the buildings would be able to be remediated safely over the next three years. “In July, the technical detail and design will be done, and we’ll be looking to start our first building by the end of the year,” he said.

“Quite often owners corporations don’t have the technical capability or the expertise to be able to do that job, so we are providing a service under Project Remediate where they’ll manage that.”

Under the government’s program, the removal of cladding from the buildings will be overseen by a project manager and the Office of the NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler. Building owners will be able to apply for interest-free loans to pay for the cost of removing and replacing dangerous cladding.

There are thousands of buildings across Australia which incorporate flammable cladding materials, including hundreds of high rise buildings, many much larger than the Grenfell building in London, as well as many government facilities and at least one major hospital.

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