USyd issued fifth fire safety order, three other buildings under investigation for flammability

On 30 March 2022, the University was ordered by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to remove flammable aluminum composite panels (ACP) from the Charles Perkins Centre.

This is the fifth University building to receive a fire safety order since last year. Others with active orders requiring removal of the cladding include the F10 New Law Building and the Business School’s H69 Codrington Building.

“The owners [USyd] they are required to replace the ACP with a non-combustible product and submit an inspection report issued by an accredited certifier,” the Order said.

“Owners are required to develop and implement fire safety measures to reduce fire safety risks associated with the siding until remediation work is complete.”

when he approaches Herethe University said it has implemented “a range [of] Fire Safety Measures” to reduce fire hazards until replacement siding work on the Charles Perkins Center and other buildings is complete.

Here understands that three university buildings remain under investigation for fire hazard in cladding as of November 2021, some with “minor” cladding and others more significant. The buildings awaiting investigation are: H70 – University of Sydney Business School, SUSF’s Noel Martin Sports and Aquatic Center and the Brain & Mind Centre.

State of eighteen buildings that were subject to a cladding safety investigation by the NSW Government.

Meanwhile, designs for cladding replacement are currently being implemented for J12 – School of Information Technology, the USU Holme Building and the Nanoscience Center, following previous fire safety orders placed on these buildings in 2021. .

In a statement, a University spokesperson said: “All buildings have been assessed and deemed safe for occupancy, with additional interim measures.”

When asked if the University chose to use ACP due to financial considerations, USyd stated that price was “not a primary factor in their selection” because “the benefits of being lightweight, flexible and aesthetically pleasing” were more important factors. This leaves open the possibility that the University and its contractor may have considered lower costs by opting for the ACP panels.

Considered in context, the factors cited by the University somewhat resemble those at play in the Grenfell Tower cladding, namely the focus on the aesthetic appeal of the cladding. The Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017 claimed 72 lives and the high death toll was largely attributed to faulty combustible plastic-backed ACP cladding.

In 2018, Arconic director Ray Bailey provided evidence to the ongoing Grenfell Inquiry stating that aesthetic appeal and cost were key factors in the selection of fuel material: “I think the factors that influenced the decision were narrowed down. to budget, aesthetics and thermal performance.

The ongoing 5-year Grenfell Inquiry revealed that London’s Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea saved over £300,000 when they opted for ACP cladding compared to its more expensive non-combustible counterparts.

Here may also reveal that it took two years for the University to begin replacing the New Law Annex cladding. An internal staff news article provided by USyd states that it was recommended to “remove and replace” a portion of the ACP cladding on the building in December 2019. It wasn’t until November 2021 that the panels were finally removed.

In response to these revelations, SRC President Lauren Lancaster criticized delays in USyd infrastructure and called for urgent repairs to buildings, including the SRC’s home in the Wentworth Building.

“It’s almost comical that these kinds of failures in infrastructure and student safety are so pervasive across campus, it speaks to a pervasive failure of the University to provide properly maintained buildings for students,” he said.

“Not least, dealing once and for all with SRC’s own lingering mold problem, flooding, or PNR’s horrendous sewer failures.”

The NSW government banned the use of aluminum composite panels in August 2018 after Grenfell. Under the ban, any person or corporation that fails to comply is subject to substantial fines. Corporations can be expected to pay up to $1.1 million, while individuals can be fined up to $220,000.

Composed of polyethylene (PE), mineral fiber or both, ACP is known to be highly combustible and was a contributing factor in the 2014 Lacrosse and 2019 Spencer St incidents in Melbourne.

USyd is not the only university in NSW to receive fire safety mandates from the state government, several notable buildings at UNSW and UTS have received similar mandates. This includes UTS’s iconic ‘Cheesegrater’ Building 11, UNSW’s Ainsworth Building, Wallace Wurth, Tyree, the Materials Science and Engineering Building, and the Lowy Cancer Research Center.

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