Pace of progress to improve building safety too slow for community comfort

The outcomes from Friday’s Building Minister’s Forum will fall short of community expectations when it comes to ensuring Australians’ safety, according to the Australian Institute of Architects.

National President Clare Cousins, who represented the architectural profession at the meeting, said the slow pace of progress on such a grave issue was of serious concern.

‘The blaze at Melbourne’s Neo200 earlier this week was a stark reminder of what’s at stake and the immediacy of the danger posed,’ Ms Cousins said.

‘Governments have an opportunity and responsibility, having identified the danger and risk posed by certain types of flammable cladding, to do something about it before any lives are lost.

‘Sadly it is an opportunity they appear to be squandering.

‘A full year since receiving the Shergold-Weir report, Building Confidence, all we have is a commitment to release a “joint implementation plan” addressing its recommendations by the end of this month.

‘The biggest milestone achieved today was an “in principle” agreement – subject to no less than five separate caveats – to a national ban on the unsafe use of combustible cladding in new construction.

‘This is unacceptable and fails even the most basic test of common sense. Prohibiting any further installation of such products, without any equivocation, should have been the starting point.

‘The Shergold-Weir report, Building Confidence, and the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into non-conforming building products sets out a clear and sensible path to reform that has been backed by industry. There is no reason to continue to delay implementation any longer.

‘There is no room to prevaricate when lives are at stake, it is as simple as that.’

The Institute was supportive of proposed changes to the National Construction Code and the focus on ensuring compliance with it.

Measures to improve education to lift the competency of building practitioners were also welcome but should go further to properly address issues identified with product substitution.

The Institute has consistently advocated for reforms that would prevent non-registered and unqualified practitioners overturning product specifications and other decisions of qualified, registered professionals like architects.