Media Release

Statement on VCAT ruling regarding Lacrosse

Responding to yesterday’s VCAT ruling relating to the 2014 Lacrosse building fire, the Australian Institute of Architects said the decision once again highlights the paramount importance of people’s safety in the built environment.

National President Clare Cousins said the Lacrosse fire has been a catalyst for important reviews into building regulation in Australia and their recommendations should be adopted.

‘Yesterday’s VCAT ruling underscores that people’s safety must be of paramount concern in our buildings,’ Ms Cousins said.

‘It reinforces the need for reform to prevent a repetition of this type of event – or worse – in future.

‘This is a landmark decision with significant ramifications right across the building and construction sector.

‘The Lacrosse fire alerted government, regulators and industry in the starkest terms to the dangers of aluminium composite cladding.

‘It prompted multiple examinations into the safety of our buildings, not just here in Melbourne but right around the country.

‘The VCAT ruling is substantial and will take time to fully digest.

‘The central message however appears clear, and that is that safety is everyone’s responsibility.

‘This is a message we fully support. We have been vocal advocates for reform and improved compliance and will continue to be.

‘Last year’s Shergold-Weir report, Building Confidence, identified serious failures that are jeopardising public safety.

‘We want to see measures put in place to rectify these failings and we repeat our call for governments to implement, in a nationally consistent way, every one of the 24 recommendations contained in that report.

‘Like any other industry, building design and construction is constantly evolving and innovating, both in terms of practices but also the materials used.

‘Our regulatory environment and the building practitioners who operate within it, including architects, must keep pace with these changes.

‘That’s why we have been calling for the registration and regulation of other building practitioners in the same way architects have been for decades.

‘We will be carefully reviewing the implications of the VCAT decision for the architectural profession.

‘It brings to the fore a number of critical issues that have been a growing concern for architects for some time.

‘Among these is the issue of non-conforming and non-complying building products and the issue of product substitution which formed the basis of a Senate Economics References Committee inquiry in 2017 that the Institute was actively involved in.

‘Changes to procurement practices and other factors have introduced a higher degree of risk in an already fraught environment and we are continuing to build the case for change on this front.

‘In a regulatory context, it is vital that risk is allocated to the party best placed to manage it – this is the best way to guarantee safety.

‘The safety and quality of our buildings must be prioritised above cost alone – doing otherwise should no longer be countenanced as a viable option.’

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