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Builder dodges cladding bill

05 Mar 2019

Builder dodges cladding bill Image

By Meg Hill

Consultants have been hit with the costs for the flammable cladding on Docklands’ Lacrosse building in a high profile Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) decision handed down on February 28.

VCAT Judge Ted Woodward found the builder, LU Simon, primarily liable but ordered the architects, building surveyors and fire engineers reimburse LU Simon for almost all of the damages awarded to apartment owners.

The decision found that the consultants failed their due care, breaching their agreements in the processes, which led to the approval of the flammable material.

The amount of damages settled was $5.7 million. Building surveyor Gardner Group, architect Elenberg Fraser and fire engineer Thomas Nicolas were ordered to reimburse LU Simon 33 per cent, 25 per cent and 39 per cent of the damages respectively.

LU Simon will pay only the 3 per cent apportioned to Jean-Francois Gubitta, the man whose cigarette started the 2014 fire.

More than $7 million in claims remain unsettled, the bulk of which relates to compliance costs including the replacement of the cladding.

The 2014 Lacrosse fire led to an uncovering of a widespread flammable cladding problem in Victoria. The long-awaited VCAT decision had been expected to set a precedent in how liability will be settled on other affected buildings in Victoria.

But Judge Woodward said: “Many of my findings have been informed by the particular contracts between the parties in this case and by events occurring in the course of the Lacrosse project that may or may not be duplicated in other building projects.”

“It should also be noted that my findings concerned the particular use of ACPs [aluminium composite panels with a core containing polyethylene] on the Lacrosse tower.”

“This relevantly involved large scale (approximately 4000 sqm) of contiguous installation of ACPs with a 100 per cent polyethylene core on the external walls of a high-rise building, including on un-sprinklered balconies.”

“Again, these particular features may or may not be present in other building projects involving ACPs.”

LU Simon started replacing cladding at Lacrosse in January in what it said was an offer of good faith.

LU Simon director Jim Moschoyiannis said: “LU Simon Builders acknowledges VCAT’s findings. It is not in a position to comment as it is yet to review the decision in its entirety in consultation with its lawyers.”

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