Harvest cladding works underway

By David Schout

Rectification works are underway at one of Melbourne’s most dangerous buildings containing flammable cladding.

Southbank’s Harvest Apartments on Clarendon St was revealed in 2016 as one of just two Melbourne buildings that required “immediate emergency action” as a result of non-compliant cladding.

The other, Docklands’ Lacrosse apartments, was the site of a 2014 blaze that triggered the wide-scale audit of Melbourne high-rise residential and public buildings.

CBD Facility Management director John Dall’Amico, who manages Harvest Apartments, confirmed with Southbank News that cladding rectification was underway.

Scaffolding had been erected at the building in September, and it was unknown exactly how long the works would take.

“It’ll take a few months,” Mr Dall’Amico said.

“It’s a fairly delicate operation needing access to apartments.”

He said there was a strong sense of relief among those in the building.

“Certainly, from the owners themselves that, three or four years ago, were probably thinking of selling, and with a Section 32.”

A “Section 32” refers to a statement that must be given to prospective buyers declaring whether a building contains combustible external wall cladding.

Mr Dall’Amico said delays in the works were largely due to determining both liability and the nature of the works to ensure compliance.

He confirmed the works were funded by the state government with no cost to owners.

In November 2014, a blaze tore up the facade of the 23-storey Lacrosse building on Latrobe St in Docklands.

An investigation conducted afterwards determined the fire — sparked by a cigarette on a sixth-floor apartment balcony — was aided by highly-flammable, non-compliant cladding installed on the building’s exterior.

While the incident had no casualties, it directly impacted up to 500 people who required immediate evacuation and accommodation.

The fire triggered a major audit of cladding on Melbourne’s biggest construction projects.

Of the 170 buildings investigated as part of the audit, more than half (51 per cent) contained cladding that was found to be non-compliant.

Of those, two buildings — Lacrosse and Harvest apartments — required “immediate emergency action”.

Highly-flammable cladding was brought into global focus after the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in London that killed 72 people.

In July 2019, the Victorian Government announced a $600 million package to fix buildings with combustible cladding and established Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) to oversee the world first program.

CSV works with building owners, owners’ corporations, local councils and the building sector to rectify buildings and make them safe.

Funding for rectification works is prioritised based on risk, to ensure buildings which present the highest risk to occupants are rectified first.

By September 2021, CSV had cladding removal and replacement projects complete or underway on 200 residential apartment buildings.

Another 53 were due begin over coming months.

CSV chief executive Dan O’Brien recently thanked owners and residents of affected buildings.

“These projects rely totally on cooperation from everyone involved,” he said. “We will continue to work with owners of the highest risk buildings because that is the best way to reduce risk for Victorians overall.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has said Victoria was “leading the world in its response to this global problem” •

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