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Recladding has taken centre stage as an important process in the construction industry. Replacing old, damaged or noncompliant façade cladding contributes significantly to a building’s lifespan and safety – but it is important to be aware of compliance laws as well as the environmental impacts of façade recladding.
Understanding what recladding is, why it is necessary and how to sustainably dispose of noncompliant cladding is essential knowledge for installers, builders, and architects as they approach any cladding rectification projects.
Recladding is the process of removing the existing façade cladding on a building and replacing it with new cladding. This process may be necessary for numerous reasons, including to repair damaged façade panels, to give a building a more contemporary façade design, or to improve thermal efficiency. Recladding is also required when cladding begins to degrade over time, resulting in damage to the building such as leakages.
Recladding has also come into focus as a major issue facing the Australian and International construction industries following high-rise building fires caused by combustible cladding. After certain types of Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) were discovered to have exacerbated these fires, governments across the world introduced stricter building regulations, with many regulatory bodies placing a ban on cladding panels containing more than 30% combustible material.
As a result of stricter Australian laws, it is estimated that tens of thousands of square metres of non-compliant cladding will need to be replaced on residential and commercial buildings across the country. State governments have been undertaking cladding audits, identifying which buildings will need non-compliant cladding replaced. Over the past few years, the state governments have carried out a state-wide cladding audits, identifying buildings that are considered moderate to high risk. Buildings identified with combustible cladding have been subject to rectification works, some of which are ongoing, and highlight the importance of recladding.
Before undertaking a cladding rectification solution, it is important to understand building compliance regulations and how they may affect your project. The National Construction Code (NCC) sets out requirements and best practice for building and recladding. Regulations for thermal performance and watertightness will apply when choosing a new cladding system.
It is crucial to consider code compliance and how it may affect your recladding project. Laws that existed when the old cladding was installed may have changed or been updated, and the most recent regulations and best practice must be followed when installing the new cladding system. Fire safety compliance is also vital – particularly when choosing a material. ACPs with a combustible polyethylene core are now banned as a cladding material in Australia.
As well as restrictions on cladding materials, fire safety laws also require more stringent product testing, and compartmentation boundaries within some façades to reduce the risk of fire spread.
Choosing a cladding material is one of the most important decisions when it comes to recladding projects. With plastic-core ACP and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) deemed non-compliant, recladders have searched for alternative materials such as mineral or honeycomb core ACPs, solid aluminium sheets or ceramic materials. The ideal cladding should not only comply with building code regulations, but also suit the aesthetic of the building and meet its specific requirements. Factors such as weatherproofing will play a critical role in the decision-making process – cladding products must be able to withstand the environmental conditions of the building, such as humidity, salt spray or hot temperatures.
Another important consideration is disposing of the old material once it has been removed. State governments have stringent regulations when it comes to disposing of combustible cladding material, including transporting the material in a way that prevents spontaneous combustion, and sending combustible waste to specially equipped facilities. It is also beneficial to consider how non-compliant cladding materials can be diverted from landfill to reduce their environmental impact. ACP recycling programs, such as Fairview’s Ecoloop ACP Recycling Program, are gaining popularity for their ability to repurpose cladding waste.
While these are important considerations, recladding can be critical. Plastic-core ACP cladding is dangerous and poses a potentially lethal hazard to its building’s occupants. Removing potentially flammable cladding is not just a matter of compliance, but of conscience, and of ensuring safety at home or work for all Australians.
While safe disposal of cladding is crucial, it is also valuable to consider sustainable disposal. Leaving old cladding to end up in landfill not only increases wastage, but results in the depletion of more resources due to the requirement to source and process more virgin material. In response to these concerns, environmentally-conscious suppliers have implemented ACP recycling programs – such as Ecoloop.
Ecoloop’s unique separation process is performed onsite at Australia’s first ACP recycling facility. Ecoloop’s process ensures all components of ACP cladding waste, including the cores, aluminium skins and accessories, are repurposed, resulting in 100% landfill diversion. After being transported to the facility, the panels are separated into their different components, and each type of material is sent to repurposing manufacturing plants – including aluminium smelters and plastic fabricators – to be transformed into new products. Non-recyclable components are also repurposed as Process Engineered Fuels to offset coal use. This innovative process helps cladding rectification contribute to the circular economy and reduce emissions.
Every recladding project has unique challenges. Fairview’s Ecoloop program helps architects, builders and installers understand how they can meet their compliance, social and environmental obligations and dispose of cladding waste responsibly.
Recladding is an important and complex process to navigate for building owners, architects, engineers, and builders. Fairview are the industry experts for cladding solutions, keeping abreast of compliance requirements, providing advice and guidance for all recladding solutions.
Recladding is also more than simply replacing cladding – disposing of noncompliant cladding responsibly is an important part of the process. Learn more about the Ecoloop program and how to execute a sustainable and compliant rectification project. Click the link to download the free eBook.