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Lacrosse tower owners to pay for flammable cladding fix

Lacrosse tower fire  

(by: KATHERINE TOWERS  From: The Australian October 24, 2015)

Apartment owners in Melbourne’s fire-ravaged Lacrosse tower will be hit with a multi-million-dollar bill and ordered to rip down and replace the highly flammable and non-compliant aluminium cladding encasing their homes.

Next week’s rectification ­orders, believed to be the first ­nationwide to hit a high-rise complex, will send shock waves through Australia’s apartment, strata and building industries.

The 312 apartment owners of the Lacrosse tower will be forced to personally foot the bill to bring the 23-storey complex into compliance with Australia’s building code and fire and safety regulations.

The cheap cladding currently on the building, imported from China and installed in breach of Australia’s building code and fire and safety regulations, is stuck on with double-sided tape.

The Lacrosse tower was one of the signature projects of prominent property developer and publisher Morry Schwartz and was designed by architecture company Elenberg Fraser, founded by his daughter, Zahava Elenberg.

Experts say compliant cladding will cost more than $300 per square metre, but that cost will jump to more than $600 when taking into ­account the cost of scaffolding and the installation of mechanical fixings needed for the fire-safe product.

The Weekend Australian understands that Melbourne City Council’s municipal building surveyor will issue the rectification orders on Monday.

The cladding scandal came to light after a fire at the Lacrosse complex last year was found to have been fuelled by the combustible imported cladding.

The fire, which started from a cigarette, took less than 11 minutes to race up 13 floors of cladding.

The blaze prompted experienced firefighters to claim they had never seen such a fire and ­exposed the extent to which the Australian building apartment boom had been powered on the back of cheaply imported, but non-compliant, building products.

The news came as it emerged this week that Peter Devitt, owner of the building company behind the cladding debacle, LU Simon, lives in a $15 million-plus penthouse in The Melburnian complex on St Kilda Road, on the leafy edge of Melbourne city.

It also came to light this week that Mr Devitt sold one of Melbourne’s most expensive trophy mansions, in prestigious Toorak, for more than $20m only 12 months before the Lacrosse tower was ravaged by fire.

LU Simon is under investigation by the Victorian Building Authority over the use and installation of the cladding on the ­Lacrosse tower.

Melbourne City Council refused to confirm that the rectification notices were pending. “We continue to communicate with owners and residents as the primary affected parties,” a spokesman said yesterday.

A spokeswoman for LU Simon said the company could not comment while the investigation was ongoing.

A spokeswoman for Trevor Main, which manages the ­Lacrosse apartment complex, said owners and residents were seeking a fair solution “as soon as possible”.