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The Rise of Inferior Building Products in Australia

August 5, 2015 0 Comments

The Senate has recently announced an inquiry into substandard building products being brought into Australia in response to concern over a rise of poor quality imports. The inquiry was called for by independent senators Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Jackie Lambie.

The alarm over the issue of inferior building products being brought into Australia is well justified. Last year saw a Melbourne high-rise engulfed in flames in seconds due to the materials of a Chinese-made cladding that covered the building’s exterior. A cigarette left on a balcony table in the Lacrosse building started a fire that quickly grew out of control. The flames moved at such a velocity that they engulfed 13 stories in less than 15 minutes. As another example, it is estimated that some 40,000 Australian homes have installed imported electrical cables with weak plastic coating that may present a fire risk over time. While this Infinity electrical cable has been recalled, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are concerned with the rate of compliance with the recall.

Moreover, the problem has been found to be widespread on Australian building sites – also affecting the Civil Construction Industry. According to a 2013 Ai Group survey, as many as 92% of construction industry suppliers identified products in their sector that did not conform to Australian standards.

This growing wave of dodgy imported materials making their way into Australian buildings is being blamed on safety loopholes. Products that may or may not claim to meet Australian safety standards are being imported into the country without being checked. According to industry players, the Free Trade Agreement signed with China last week could make the problem worse.

Hazardous Building Material

Are You Working with Inferior Imported Construction Materials?

A recent summit by the Housing Industry Association has found that poorly made building materials may be currently used for the following:

  • strapping,
  • bracing and tie down connectors,
  • concrete and reinforcing,
  • structural grade timber and LVL,
  • structural steel,
  • steel framing,
  • windows and glazed doors,
  • balustrading,
  • roofing and wall cladding, and
  • masonry materials.

In other words, a wide range of essential building materials that should be constructed to the utmost safety standards may be defective and dangerous.

So what will be the result of the Senate inquiry, and what can the government do to stop this concerning problem?

Currently, individual state bodies are attempting to address the issue. The Victorian Building Authority are still investigating the use of the flammable cladding, and have audited some 170 building sites in an attempt to ensure all building materials meet Australian standards. The Queensland Building and Construction Commission has recently formed the Queensland Building and Construction Product Committee, which aims to protect home owners and industry members from non-compliant and non-conforming products.

While actions like these are encouraging, there is still the need for a national standard to be enforced Australia-wide. At the beginning of August, the Building Ministers’ Forum was held in Melbourne. The underlying focus of this forum was a push for national action on this issue.

Hopefully the combination of the Building Ministers’ Forum and the Senate inquiry into sub-standard building products will see a halt to poorly made construction materials in Australia. This will protect builders who pay more for products that meet Australian standards, as well as guarantee the safety of Australians, their homes, and Australian Infrastructure.

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