Intro to Cladding Remediation, Best Practices & St Ferrer’s expertise

Cladding remediation and recladding projects have only just started taking off over the past few years. You may remember the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster in London, a fire that was stoked by combustible cladding and claimed the lives of 72 people. Since then, there have been further incidents of industrial and apartment complexes that sustained similar fire damage due to combustible cladding materials. This has led to the inspection of hundreds of commercial and residential strata buildings throughout Victoria, and the subsequent serving of building notices.

While there is now more information surrounding the issue of highly combustible cladding, there is still some ambiguity about what the best practices and solutions in cladding remediation are. Whilst the industry is now growing, the best practices and processes are still evolving. Unfortunately, there are still many owners and owners corporations that are in the dark about how to proceed with their building notices.

“Cladding remediation is an entirely new industry with very few specialists simply because no one’s ever thought to rip off perfectly good cladding and install new cladding in live tenanted environments before” explains Chris Bertacco, Pre-Construction Manager & Director of St. Ferrer.

St Ferrer are industry leaders in cladding remediation and have successfully delivered over 35 projects, as well as providing consultation to more than a hundred over the course of the past 3 years. St Ferrer have refined their cladding remediation processes, thus resulting in the comprehensive end-to-end service for which they are renowned.

Today we speak to Chris about St Ferrer’s best practices to achieve successful outcomes in cladding remediation projects.

Experienced & Comprehensive Consultancy

“It is very typical in this industry that Owners and Owners Corporations that have had [building] notices served to them are unaware of what cladding must be removed, how much it’s going to cost, and what the disruption is going to be to the residents” explains Chris.

St Ferrer has gained a wealth of experience in the industry, in a brief period of time by having worked on many projects of varying sizes and complexities. As a result of this they have refined their cladding remediation processes beyond that of your average residential building company. “There’s so many technical processes that need to be properly sequenced, in order to get the approval from your municipal building surveyor.” From the very first site inspection with St Ferrer, it is evident that when it comes to cladding remediation, the only viable option is to trust an experienced team with such a delicate and technical project.

St Ferrer also has at its disposal a knowledge panel of consultancy experts, which includes a full team of Structural & Facade Engineers, Energy Consultants, Architects and Fire Engineers. The consultancy team have worked seamlessly on every project together and have consistently developed solutions based on cladding remediation best practices.

Complete Performance Solutions

When it comes to delivering a successful cladding remediation outcome it is important to be aware of all the available solutions. “A partial removal (of cladding) may be an ideal solution in some instances, however owners corporations need to be made aware of the insurance ramifications and that stakeholders such as the MFB and the local council are fully across this solution”. For full disclosure, partial removals are only recommended based on the advice and recommendation of your consultancy team.

“Performance solutions are primarily concerned with ensuring the safe evacuation of residents from the premises through an egress area.” Solutions are not limited to simply partial or full removals of cladding, there are many other access-based considerations that are considered throughout the consultancy phase, such as the installation of sprinkler systems, warning alarms or a fire exit strategy to name a few.

“The checklist that comes from a building surveyor to satisfy cladding remediation is enormous. It’s not just cladding it is the balcony waterproofing, flashings, roof works, air conditioner placings, which is why performance solutions, and the full removal of cladding are always considered throughout the cladding remediation process.”

Working in live tenanted situations

“An understated part of the cladding remediation process that Owners Corporations sometimes forget to consider is that we are working in live tenanted situations” explains Chris. There are inevitably situations where scaffolding could be placed on a residents balcony or labourers will be required to physically go through a resident’s apartment to access hard-to-reach spots necessary to complete construction works, inevitably compromising the privacy of residents.

St Ferrer excels in dealing with sensitive live tenanted environments by employing a full-time site manager who sets the standard for all building management protocols to limit disruptions to the peace and mind of residents. “We operate our worksites in a professional manner with no yelling, loud music, smoking or swearing.” St Ferrer are seasoned and highly experienced in amicably resolving disputes in live-tenanted scenarios. “We are familiar in dealing with hostile situations from tenants and (to a lesser degree) owners, which is why we adopt different approaches to smooth out any dilemmas on site.”

Once we’ve set up the building site, a building surveyor will determine which residents and occupants of neighbouring houses are likely to be impacted by site-work and this group are served with a protection of works notice. This informational pack gives them a complete understanding of all the works that are being undertaken and the disruptions they may experience throughout construction. This gives them an opportunity to express any issues or concerns they may have with the planned works. Our goal is to foster a prominent level of trust in the community through respect and constant communication.

Quality remediation and quick closeout

“One of the goals of cladding remediation is to complete the work to the highest level of quality in a timely manner.” Cladding remediation can be an extremely sensitive venture (as explained above) and if you aren’t experienced in closing out a job, it can create a lot of issues particularly when it comes to finally receiving the Certificate of Final Inspection (CFI).

“Throughout the construction phase, we complete remediation works in accordance with an Inspection Test Plan (ITP)” Chris outlines. ITPs ensure that every wall and facade is audited, and quality tested throughout the build and that cladding is installed as per the product installation manual. Building surveyors routinely inspect works right throughout the remediation process to ensure that works are completed in accordance with Australian Standards.

At the conclusion of site works, a quick closeout is prioritised by thoroughly cleaning the site of all debris, render, nails and tidying up surrounding garden beds and landscaping. “We leave every work site in a condition better than the way we found it in, and at the end of the day residents get a really beautiful and clean building.”

If you have been served with a building notice, St Ferrer offers a no obligation, project review and building inspection. Contact us today for all your cladding remediation project enquiries.