How safe are our high-rise buildings?

Queenslanders are calling for an audit to guarantee the safety of buildings, in the wake of the Grenfell fire tragedy. NSW and Victoria are already taking this step.
Few of us can forget the harrowing images of the Grenfell tower fire, which claimed the lives of least 80 people in London.
Investigators are still looking into the cause of the blaze, but some experts have blamed a combustible aluminium cladding material, which was used as a cheaper alternative to the zinc cladding originally proposed for tower renovations.
Nearly 150 high-rise buildings in the UK have failed safety tests since that tragic day – thanks to the type of cladding used. The supplier of that particular cladding also announced it will stop selling the material for high-rise buildings.
This has alarmed many Australians, who wonder if a similar tragedy could happen here. Government documents show that 2500 buildings in NSW could be using inflammable cladding and experts worry it’s more widespread than that.
In Queensland, apartment dwellers are calling for an urgent audit to make sure their units are safe. Wayne Stevens, president of the Unit Owners Association of Queensland, said more than one million Queenslanders live in apartments and residents worry about inadequate fire protection in some buildings.
“We will support any proposal for a statewide audit as a matter of urgency,” Mr Stevens told Fairfax media.
If the state government heeds their calls, it would follow the footsteps of the Victoria and NSW governments, which are setting up their own task force units to investigate buildings and enforce tougher fire safety regulations.
Master Builders Australia supports the monitoring of buildings and any improvements that are necessary. CEO Denita Wawn said Australia enjoys comprehensive laws in this area, but problems could arise if products entering Australia don’t meet minimum requirements.
“Everyone in the building supply chain (including manufacturers, importers, and wholesalers, retailers, building designers, builders and contractors) have a shared responsibility to ensure building products are safe and fit for purpose,” she said.
“While the focus is often on builders, greater attention should be given to those involved in importation and distribution.”
In the meantime, some builders could be taking matters into their own hands, to ensure that buildings are safe. The Daily Telegraph claims that Australian construction workers have indicated they won’t use cladding that doesn’t meet safety standards – and the construction union is also considering banning the installation of some types of cladding.