Incident directory

2014 - Lacrosse Docklands




  • Building Fires


Near miss


Date of event

25th November, 2014.

Time of event

Approximately 02:24: (INITIAL CALL)

Name of premises

Lacrosse Docklands.


673 to 675 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Service area

Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB).

Nature of incident


Property type

High rise.

Premises use


Construction type and materials

Steel reinforced concrete slab floors with reinforced concrete load bearing walls. 4mm Aluminium and Polyethylene core exterior composite cladding panels.

Building of 21 storeys containing 23 storeys in total, at approximately 58.7 m effective height.

Building fitted with sprinklers within apartments (flats) and automatic fire detection (AFD) within common areas and sounders throughout.



Fire source and location of fire

Accidental due to discarded smoking materials left within a plastic container on a wooden table situated on the balcony of apartment 805 on level 8.


Brief Synopsis

At approximately 01:30 hours on the morning of Tuesday 25 November 2014, an occupant from Apartment 805 of the building, claims he investigated the smell of smoke. After checking the kitchen and making sure the gas stove was turned off, he returned to bed. Sometime later, the same occupant was woken by two other house mates who had discovered the fire burning on the balcony (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

From inside the apartment, he could see a fire on the right hand side (south) of the balcony. The occupants of the apartment unsuccessfully attempted to extinguish the fire using a container of water (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

At 02:24 hours on Tuesday morning 25 November 2014, Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) fire crews responded to an exchange call for a reported apartment fire at 673 - 675 La Trobe Street, Docklands (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

When the first fire crews arrived on scene at 02:29 hours, they observed that the fire had already extended up the external walls and balconies over approximately 6 levels. At 02.35 hours, only 6 minutes later, crews reported back that fire had reached the roof of the building above the 21st floor (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

The fire scenario and fire behaviour encountered by the attending MFB fire-fighters on that morning is not a scenario commonly encountered by MFB crew attending high-rise buildings. Rapid vertical fire spread up the building appeared to be directly associated with the external façade of the building, rather than associated with the internal parts or extensive fuel loads stored on many of the balconies (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

Due to rapid fire spread and penetration into internal parts of the building over many levels, the entire building was evacuated resulting in more than four hundred evacuees assembling in La Trobe Street. It appears the rapid fire spread caused the EWIS to be compromised on most fire affected levels, preventing it from operating as designed on those levels. Fire crews were therefore forced to enter every level and alert occupants of each apartment to ensure total evacuation (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

The fire caused 26 sprinkler heads to activate. Two fire hydrants were also used; however, it was undetermined whether both fire hydrants were used simultaneously (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

Despite the demand on the system running well over its designed capabilities, all witness reports and subsequent investigations, suggest the sprinkler system performed exceptionally well. Of the sixteen levels that were affected by the fire, there were only two instances where fire-fighters had to use hose lines from the internal fire hydrants. This was to combat a larger fire inside Apartments 1005 and 1905. Fire-fighters identified that in these two instances the sprinklers were containing the fire from spreading deeper into the apartment (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 2

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 3

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 4

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 5

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 6

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 7

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 8

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 9

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 10

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 11

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 15

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

 Photo 13

Courtesy Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB), from (Badrock & Bryant, 2014).

Main findings, key lessons & areas for learning

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Fire & Rescue Service summary of main findings (issues), conclusions, key recommendations

Taken from; Badrock & Bryant, 2014.



Following the fire, investigators from the MFB’s Fire Investigation and Analysis unit together with the MFB’s Building Practitioner and Fire Safety Officer’s conducted an inspection of the building. During that inspection, issues were identified relating to fire safety which could pose a threat to occupants and assist in the spread of fire.

6.1. External Wall Cladding (Alucobest) Rapid fire spread

MFB Comment:

First-hand accounts from attending MFB fire-fighters and residents of the building, describe the fire as appearing to be associated directly with the façade of the building rather than the combustible contents and storage on the external balconies. Burning and flaming facades on high-rise buildings is not a common phenomenon witnessed by the MFB and is of genuine concern. Of even greater concern is the speed and intensity of the fire spread.

 Photo 14

Figure 10 - Time 02:29. Photo depicts the rapid vertical fire spread, only 4 minutes after level 8 sprinkler activation

The MFB Fire Investigation team have determined that the fire originated on the balcony of the 8th floor. The FIP history log shows activation of the Level 8 sprinkler flow switch at 02.25 hours, one minute later than an exchange call received by the MFB. Fire crew arrived on scene at 02.29 hours, some five minutes later and reported vertical fire spread to approximately the 14th floor. At 02.35 hours, MFB crew reported that the vertical fire spread had reached the roof.

From the timeline described above, it is reasonable to derive external vertical fire spread occurred from the 8th floor to the roof above the 21st floor within 10 to 15 minutes, penetrating the adjacent internal rooms on all floors. In the case examined in this report, the upward vertical spread of fire was restricted only by the height of the building. If the building and the construction of the external walls continued to a greater height of upward of 21 storeys, it is highly probable fire spread would have continued beyond 21 storeys.

Whilst the fire sprinkler system water supply in this building performed beyond its design capabilities (see Section 6.7 of this report), the water supply in other buildings cannot be reasonably expected to enable the sprinkler system to perform in this manner. Additionally, on the morning of the fire, the prevailing winds were from the west, which likely assisted in drawing flames and hot gases away from the internal building compartment.

In different circumstances and in contrast to the outcomes of this fire event, we may have witnessed internal fire growth and spread, established over 16 plus levels, aided by high easterly winds back into the face of the building. This would be an extremely high challenge event for safe building evacuation and effective fire brigade intervention.

The fire behaviour and extent of fire spread, both externally and internally, clearly demonstrated that the form of construction adopted in the building solution does not meet performance requirement CP2(a) of the BCA with respect to the avoidance of fire spread.

The fire resulted in internal ignition occurrences on all floors where external fire spread occurred. Simultaneous fire incidence over many floors at heights possibly well beyond the external reach capabilities of the attending Brigade, is an extremely challenging scenario for successful Fire Brigade intervention. Based on the observations of the fire incident the, Chief Officer believes that the building solution does not incorporate elements to the degree necessary to avoid the spread of fire.

Appendix 12 contains examples of similar international fire incidents involving facades clad with aluminium/polyethylene composite panel.

6.2. Use of Combustible External Wall Cladding on Type A construction

MFB Comment:

Due to the use and number of storeys, Stage 1 of The Lacrosse Apartment Building is considered a building requiring Type A construction when determined under C1.1 of the BCA.

In accordance with the deemed-to-satisfy requirements of Specification C1.1 of the BCA, external walls of Type A buildings must be non-combustible, notwithstanding any requirement for fire rating. Non-combustible is a defined term in the BCA and is defined as the following:

Applied to a material – not deemed combustible as determined by AS1530.1 -Combustibility Test for Materials; Applied to construction or part of a building - constructed wholly of materials that are not deemed combustible.

Additionally, a material may be considered non-combustible under C1.12 of the BCA, if it meets the defined criteria within that clause. Standard grade Alucobest aluminium/polyethylene composite panel does not meet the criteria and nor is it likely that it has been successfully tested in accordance with AS1530.1.

Therefore, a building permit application specifying the use of standard grade Alucobest aluminium/polyethylene composite as an external wall cladding system, proposes an alternative solution to the deemed-to-satisfy requirements of the BCA. Evidence of suitability for the material and form of construction must be obtained in accordance with A2.2 of the BCA, to demonstrate it meets the relevant performance requirements. This may be in the form of a Certificate of Conformity/Accreditation. The MFB have not been able to gain such documentation for the Alucobest range and these products are not included in the ABCB - Register of CodeMark Certified Products.

Occupancy Permit Information – Lacrosse Building – Stage 1

An Occupancy Permit 14166F6a (OP) was issued by the Relevant Building Surveyor on 13 June 2012. The OP documents 20 alternative solutions that were “used to determine compliance with the (following) Performance Requirements of the BCA”. The building solution also includes several Building Appeals Board determinations and many items supported under Report and Consent from the Chief Officer and the City of Melbourne.

The alternative solutions listed in the OP however, do not include the adoption of an alternative solution for the use of combustible cladding on the external façade. Furthermore, the fire engineering report referenced on the OP and dated November 2010, did not include acknowledgement and assessment of this deemed-to-satisfy non-compliance.

6.3. Building Material Design, Selection and Installation

MFB Comment:

The MFB has been unable to obtain the complete building approval documentation as the total of the approved drawings, specifications was not available at the Council Offices. The MFB was therefore unable to substantiate if Alucobest panel was specified in the approved drawings or a competitor product.

Anecdotally, many of the same/similar products in Australian competitors range have obtained Certificates of Conformity under the ABCB – CodeMark Scheme. The conditions on the certificates generally require mechanical fixing systems for the panels on Type A and B buildings, in lieu of adhesive flat tape as used on the Alucobest product on the Lacrosse Building. The MFB have been informed by industry representatives that they believe this requirement is to prevent delamination of the aluminium face sheet, which can expose the combustible core material to the effects of fire. Brigade member accounts, along with video footage, details large flaming flat sheets falling from the building façade.

Additional to the combustible cladding, the lightweight external walls at the southern end of balconies include combustible 100mm PVC stormwater downpipes and associated lagging within the core of the wall. The downpipes are connected to the drains housed in the balcony floors to drain stormwater collected on the surface of the balconies. A fire collar is installed around the PVC downpipe penetration, through the concrete balcony, to retain the required fire resistance level.

Inspections conducted after the day of the subject fire incident revealed that many fire collars failed to operate as designed i.e. did not close sufficiently to prevent fire spread to connecting levels. The collars are fitted around an 88o PVC “plain junction (tee)” pipe connector which connects the vertical downpipe with the horizontal pipe connected to the balcony floor drain. An 88o PVC “plain junction (T)” pipe connector would be expected to have greater resistance to the crushing action from the fire collar due to the connector’s increased wall thickness and form.

Additionally, the PVC thickness is increased where the connector (female) and downpipe (male) join in the connector housing. The MFB believe this material application and installation is not likely to be in accordance and identical with a successfully tested and approved prototype.

6.4. High Occupancy Rate

MFB Comment:

The occupancy of many of the apartments appeared to be in excess of what would normally be expected in a two bedroom apartment and what a two bedroom apartment is designed for. During investigations it was identified that some apartments had sleeping arrangements for up to eight people. This led to a greater level of storage of personal belongings within the apartment and on the apartment balcony.

As a result, the higher fire fuel load has allowed for a more intense fire to develop on the balcony. In this instance the sprinkler system did not cover the balcony so the fire was able to develop to the point of causing the glass panels located between the apartment’s living room and the balcony to break and expose the internal rooms to fire. Fortunately in this instance, the sprinkler system installed within each apartment prevented major internal fire spread.

Additionally, high occupancy of apartments can impact on safe evacuation of occupants in the event of an emergency. Some of the apartments in this building had temporary structures assembled around the bed to provide privacy. These light weight structures, along with other furnishings and contents, may impede clear egress from the apartment making it difficult for occupants to exit safely.

6.5. Mass evacuation necessary due to fire development and spread

MFB Comment:

External wall construction and materials used in this building allowed for rapid vertical fire spread, involving a relatively large portion of the high-rise building as opposed to a single level. In light of this fire, Officers had no choice but to evacuate the entire building. Over 400 evacuees were assembled in La Trobe Street before the MFB identified that a large sheltered evacuation centre would be needed.

Initially the evacuees were escorted from La Trobe Street to the Southern Cross Station bus centre, where they were monitored by Ambulance Victoria and provided with water and blankets. The MFB Incident Management Team (IMT) called for the response of the Municipal Emergency Response Officer (MERO) and the establishment of an Emergency Relief Centre, (ERC). During the morning it was decided to use Etihad Stadium as a recovery and information centre and all evacuees were transferred to this location.

The care and management of the displaced occupants also presented a challenge for the MFB and other agencies. During the MFB debrief fire-fighters indicated that it was a difficult process to register and account for all occupants, as some evacuees did not speak English and some did not understand the reason for providing their name and address.

Due to the fire damage and the fire systems being inoperable, the occupants were unable to return to their apartment for an extended period of time. Some occupants were displaced for a longer period while the building underwent structural repair.

6.6. Emergency Warning and Intercommunication System (EWIS) was compromised

MFB Comment:

In the hours after the fire, MFB personnel conducted numerous interviews with occupants and fire-fighters that were involved in the initial fire response. Many of the occupants spoken to said they did not hear alarms. These occupants said they were awoken to the fire by “screaming, banging and other loud noises”.

The remaining witnesses fell into two different groups. One group commented that the alarms came on for a few seconds only or they could hear alarms but they were very quiet and distant. The other group said they heard the alarms and evacuated.

Approximately 10 minutes after the first appliance arrived on scene a fire-fighter used the EWIS PA facility to make an evacuation announcement. No witnesses questioned reported hearing this message.

Subsequent investigations found that the following scenario resulted in the EWIS’s failure.

Directly above the balcony air-conditioner compressor units (south wall), is a metal exhaust grill. The grill is connected to a formed sheet - metal collection box located in the ceiling space above Bedroom 2. The collection box is approximately 600mm wide, 250mm high and 600mm deep. Two 150mm non-insulated aluminium flexi ducts were connected to the collection box from the bathroom exhaust fans. A EWIS sounder was located in the ceiling of Bedroom 2 and directly adjacent to the above exhaust collection box. Refer to diagrams and photo in Appendix 5 for further detail. This design arrangement was typical for all apartments in vertical alignment from 605 to 2105.

The EWIS system is designed and installed as per Australian Standard AS1670.4. This Standard requires all wiring between the EWIS’s main panel and the evacuation zone to be fire rated. The zone wiring itself is not required to be fire rated, instead non-fire rated thermal plastic sheath (TPS) wire is used. Refer to Appendix 6 figure 17.

As identified earlier, the fire started on the balcony of Apartment 805 on Level 8. Hot gases as a result of the fire, entered the ceiling space over Bedroom 2 via the external wall grill and compromised the wiring and designated sounder of the EWIS (Appendix 5). This resulted in a fault in the speaker loop and subsequent failure of the entire sounder system on the entire 8th level. This has been confirmed by Representatives from the installation/maintenance company.

Based on witness statements and subsequent investigations, it is believed that the EWIS on Level 8 and 9 operated for approximately 30 seconds after the FIP received its first activation transmission from the smoke detector outside Apartment 805. It then failed due to the fire compromising the system. It is also believed that the EWIS operated on Level 7 for approximately 5 minutes before it too failed.

As described earlier the fire burnt up the side of the building extremely fast. It is believed that the fire caused the EWIS’s system to fail on most of the levels ahead of the cascading EWIS evacuation sequence that was ascending the building. This would suggest that those who said they heard the alarm and evacuated would have been located below Level 9.

A number of occupants and fire-fighters interviewed, said they heard alarms but they were very quiet and distant. These alarms may be attributed to the following:

  • Stand-alone AS3786 smoke alarms operating in adjacent apartments (not linked to EWIS).
  • EWIS sounders on other lower floors; for example the occupants of Apartment 606 may have heard the evacuation tones coming from Level 5 below.
  • In the initial 15 minutes, over 15 Fire Brigade vehicles arrived on scene. In addition to this number, numerous police cars and ambulances also arrived on scene; it may have been the sirens from these vehicles that occupants heard.

6.7. Sprinkler System operated well beyond its designed capability

MFB Comment:

In total, 26 fire sprinkler heads activated over 16 floors during the fire incident. As the fire spread to each level, fire sprinkler heads generally activated within the lounge and bedroom 2 and prevented internal fire spread and development into apartments. This put a significant demand on the installed sprinkler system and associated water supply. Additionally, two internal fire hydrants were used by fire-fighters to extinguish fires not extinguished by the sprinklers.

The installed combined fire hydrant/fire sprinkler system, compliant with AS2118.6, was designed to facilitate simultaneous operation of four sprinkler heads and two fire hydrants. See Appendix 8. It is possible that not all sprinkler heads along with the two fire hydrants were operating at the same time; however due to the time-line of events, it is reasonable to conclude that the system operated significantly beyond its designed capability.

Had the combined fire hydrant/fire sprinkler system not exceeded its designed capability, it is likely that significant fire development and spread would have occurred in some of the subject apartments on Levels 6 to 21. Spread beyond the subject apartments to adjacent apartments and common areas may also have occurred.

This would have presented an extremely difficult scenario for fire-fighters and occupants of the building, and may have resulted in serious injury and/or death. Significantly increased property damage and loss would have occurred along with the negative impact on occupant displacement and emergency service/recovery agency resource.

6.8. Sprinklers were not required on the balconies under the BCA

MFB comment:

The balconies connected to Apartments 605 to 2105 were approximately 1.8 metre in depth x 4.7 metre long. The sprinkler system did not extend beyond the apartments’ internal areas to the balconies and it is acknowledged by the MFB that this was not a deemed-to-satisfy requirement under the Building Code of Australia (AS2118.1 Section 5.7.10).

AS 2118.1 Section 5.7.10 - Covered balconies

Portions of covered balconies that exceed 6m² floor area and have a depth in excess of 2m shall be sprinkler protected.

The Chief Officer Report and Consent pursuant to Regulation 309 of the Building Regulations 2006, dated 29 March 2011, contains notification under 309(3) for the deletion of sprinklers to balconies (not Apartments 605 to 2105) and indicated the balconies in question would have low fuel loads. MFB recommendations included a comment that balconies were not to be used for storage and requested that this measure was to be included as part of the Essential Safety Measures for the building.

In this instance, typical combustibles identified to be present on balconies throughout the building consisted of clothing, bedding, bicycles, electrical appliances and other miscellaneous combustible materials, notwithstanding the air conditioner compressor units and other combustible furniture items. See Figure 11 below for example.

 Photo 15a

Figure 11 - Combustibles stored on one of the balconies.

High occupancy rates in apartments can lead to reliance on balconies for additional storage space, increasing the fire load.

Had the sprinkler system extended to the balcony area of each apartment, fire would have most likely been contained to the level of fire origin.

6.9. Maintenance Issues

Note: The following issues were identified as a result of investigations into the fire and are considered not likely to have impacted on the fire incident.

6.9.1. Fire extinguishers not accessible

MFB comment:

As discussed in the ‘Installed Fire Safety Equipment’ section of this report, there are three fire extinguishers installed on each residential level. These extinguishers are required to be installed in accordance with Australian Standard AS2444-2001.

 Photo 15

Figure 12 - Fire extinguisher layout

This Standard states that each extinguisher shall be located in a conspicuous and readily accessible position and extinguishers shall not be located in positions where access could present a hazard to the potential user.

In this instance, a number of the purposely designed extinguisher enclosure housing Extinguishers 1 and 2 shown in Figure 12 (refer previous page), were being used by occupants as storage areas thus blocking access to the extinguishers.

 Photo 15b

Figure 13 - Fire extinguisher cupboard on Level 6.

The storage of goods and materials in enclosures used to accommodate fire safety equipment, delays access for occupants or fire-fighters who require the equipment in an emergency. These storage items are generally of a combustible nature and present an additional hazard.

It was noted during investigations that extinguisher three (as shown in Figure 12) on all residential levels was locked within a service room where they were inaccessible to occupants and fire-fighters.

Australian Standard AS2444-2001 identifies that all extinguishers shall have a ‘Location Sign’ installed that is clearly visible to persons approaching the extinguisher. None of the extinguishers inspected on the residential levels had ‘Location Signs’ installed on the outside of the cupboards.

6.9.2. Apartment Smoke Alarms tampered with.

MFB comment:

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke, alert occupants of fire and provide time to evacuate or undertake initial fire-fighting if safe to do so.

As discussed in the ‘Installed Fire Safety Equipment’ section of this report, each apartment is fitted with Australian Standard AS3786-1993 smoke alarms. Hard-wired smoke alarms such as the ones installed at this premises, are connected to the mains power and include a battery back-up facility in the event of power supply failure. If smoke alarm batteries are removed from this type of alarm, the alarm cannot be closed resulting in the mains power being disrupted and the alarms unable to operate.

It was observed that within a number of apartments the battery had been removed from the smoke alarm. In addition some smoke alarms had been covered (Refer to Figure 14 below).

 Photo 16

Figure 14 - An example of an obstructed Smoke Alarm – Apartment 805


In this instance, fire quickly extended up the external wall involving the cladding and fuel loads on each balcony. Had the external wall cladding been of a non-combustible type, the likelihood of fire spread beyond the level of ignition would have been greatly reduced.

Furthermore, if a sprinkler head had been installed, it too would have reduced the chance of fire spread.

In the words adopted within the Building Code of Australia, a building must have elements to the degree necessary to avoid the spread of fire in a building. Amongst other considerations, the degree necessary is relative to:

  • The function and use of the building – residential building with sleeping occupants not in a ready and aware state.
  • The fire hazard – the installed cladding material appeared to be a readily combustible material, which upon ignition sustained and supported rapid spread of fire. Additionally, there was excessive storage of combustibles on many of the balconies.
  • The number of storeys – the building contains 23 storeys (high-rise).
  • Fire brigade intervention – High-rise, 400+ occupants and multiple internal ignitions over 15 floors.

The fire behaviour on the morning of the 25 November 2014, clearly demonstrated to all concerned, that the elements installed to the external walls of this building did not avoid the spread of fire to the degree necessary.

An improved system and understanding for ensuring appropriate material selection, approval and installation is of major importance to the MFB.

There were many contributory factors leading to the events on 25 November 2014. In this instance, increased combustible fuel loads on the unsprinklered balcony aided in the ignition and fire propagation to such a degree, as to allow ignition of the external wall cladding. This incident in isolation may have resulted in a far more manageable outcome with damage on one level only. However, as previously described in this report, rapid fire spread directly related to the involvement of the external cladding material, occurred to such an extent that the only likely fact preventing further vertical fire spread was the limitation of the building height to only 21 storeys.

Clearly, the external cladding material on this building did not to the degree necessary avoid the spread of fire as required by the Building Code of Australia. Simultaneous internal fire ignition events over multiple floors are simply an unacceptable fire safety solution for a residential high-rise building, or any other occupiable building for that matter.

If not for the excellent performance of the internal fire sprinkler system and the quick and professional response of the MFB fire-fighters to prevent further internal fire spread and development, the consequences of this fire would likely have resulted in greater impact on occupants, the surrounding community amenity, resources and infrastructure. There could have been a greater likelihood of serious injury or even loss of life.

Whilst damage and injury were minimised, the social impact of this fire was considerable and cannot be ignored. All occupants of the building were displaced for some days during building refurbishment and reinstatement of the fire safety systems, whilst the occupants of the fire affected apartments were displaced for considerably more time.

Prevention of similar incidents in new and existing developments should be a priority for the entire construction industry. This must start with ensuring an improved process and/or understanding for appropriate material selection, approval and installation. In particular, the MFB would urge all stakeholders in the construction industry to exercise greater diligence and caution with the selection and installation of aluminium/polyethylene composite cladding panels, and encourage selection of those products with appropriate and clear product accreditation and certificates of conformity.

Given the risk of fire on a residential balcony is real, and as in this instance, the sprinkler system within the apartments does not extend to protect the balcony on each level, there is the possibility for this scenario to repeat itself.


As the reporting agent, the MFB has made the following recommendations, after considering the use of the building, its size, location and type of construction and the number and type of people likely to use it. The MFB believes that if the following are implemented, a greater degree of fire safety will be afforded to buildings of this nature, the people who occupy them and to attending fire-fighters.

8.1 The relevant building surveyors, architects, developers and designers should pay careful consideration to the external wall construction and all associated cladding materials to be adopted in construction proposals requiring Type A construction.

Many aluminium/polyethylene composite panel products have current Certificates of Conformity under the ABCB – CodeMark Scheme. The MFB encourages designers and certifiers to adopt the products with current certificates, and ensure compliance with all conditions imposed on the certificate.

Caution should be exercised in the absence of clear and transparent documentation to demonstrate compliance with Clause 3.1(b) of Specification C1.1. of the BCA for non-combustibility.

A form of construction or individual material components can only be considered non-combustible under one of the following methods of the BCA:

  • Meets the criteria for being determined as non-combustible under C1.12;
  • Has been successfully tested in accordance with AS1530.1 – Combustibility Tests for Materials; or
  • Has evidence to demonstrate that the materials and form of construction to be adopted is “fit for the purpose for which they are intended” under A2.1.

Building Surveyors should exercise greater diligence where materials and forms of construction are proposed with Evidence of Suitability under options (i), (iii), (iv), or (vi) A2.2. The MFB support the guidance and position documented in the FPA Position Statement - Product Compliance And Evidence Of Suitability available at the following web address:

Building Practitioners are encouraged to read and understand this document and seek further advice from their respective industry bodies and representatives.

8.2 The MFB concur with the conclusions made in The Fire Protection Research Foundation published a report in June 2014, titled “Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components (1)”. The report concludes that:

“Small scale tests can provide misleading results for materials which are complex composites or assemblies. This is particularly the case where a combustible core material may be covered by a non-combustible or low-combustible material or a highly reflective surface”.

“Full-scale façade tests are currently the only method available for absolutely determining the fire performance of complete assemblies which can be influenced by factors which may not be adequately tested in small scale tests”.

“There is currently no practical method of predicting real scale fire performance from small-scale tests for the broad range of exterior wall systems in common use. Small scale tests may provide acceptable benchmarks for individual material components. However further validation against full-scale tests may be required to support this. Small scale tests (in particular the cone calorimeter) can also be useful for doing quality control tests on materials for systems already tested in full-scale or for determining key flammability properties for research and development of fire spread models. Small scale tests, such as the cone calorimeter should not be used to assess the performance of the whole façade assembly”.

“Full-scale façade tests with a wing wall are currently the best method available for determining the fire performance of complete assemblies which can be influenced by factors which may not be adequately tested in mid to small scale tests. These factors include the severity of fire exposure, interaction of multiple layers of different types of materials, cavities, fire stopping, thermal expansion, fixings and joints”.

The MFB is aware that a sub-committee has been formed by representatives of the Australian Standards Committee FP 18, to investigate appropriate full scale ‘reaction to fire’ tests for facades. The MFB are hopeful more appropriate testing requirements are adopted for testing for the façade material and components mentioned in this report and similar.

8.3 The selection, and installation of “fit for purpose”, tested and approved building products and materials are of fundamental importance in ensuring the robustness of any fire safety design in building construction. The MFB support the guidance and position documented in the FPA Position Statement - Product Compliance And Evidence Of Suitability available at the following web address:

Building Practitioners are encouraged to read and understand this document and seek further advice from their respective industry bodies and representatives.

Many aluminium/polyethylene composite panel products have current Certificates of Conformity under the ABCB – CodeMark Scheme. The MFB encourages designers and certifiers to adopt the products with current certificates, and ensure compliance with all conditions imposed on the certificate.

8.4 Legislation review and possible amendment to reflect a greater level of ownership and managerial control around the occupancy rate within Class 2 occupancies.

8.5 Where alternative solutions propose additional AS1670.4 sounders within sole-occupancy units consideration should be given to not impact on the redundancy and reliability of the system. One solution may be to provide two independent sounder loops throughout the floor level. One loop dedicated to the sounders within the sole-occupancy units, and another dedicated to sounders within common areas/corridors etc.

The common area sounders should be specified to achieve 85dB at the entry door independent of the performance of the sounders within the sole occupancies. This will

provide greater redundancy to the potential loss of sounders within the sole occupancy units and ensure compliant performance is retained.

8.6 Another solution may be to specify all wiring to be fire rated throughout the entire system and/or to have all speakers connected in parallel as opposed to series. This will ensure operation is not compromised in the event that a section of the wiring or individual sounder is lost.

8.7 Possible amendment to AS2118.1 Section 5.7.10 to require sprinkler protection to all portions of covered balconies irrespective of their size in Class 2 buildings.

Note: The MFB are not suggesting this as a fire safety measure to mitigate the risk of the installation of combustible cladding materials on external walls, but rather to address what the MFB perceives to be an increasing trend in the storage of combustible items on external residential balconies.

8.8 Building management to ensure that all installed fire extinguishers are unobstructed clearly identified and correctly maintained. The storage of goods and materials in fire safety equipment enclosures should be regularly monitored and appropriately addressed with measures to discourage and/prevent re-occurrence.

8.9 Building occupants need to be made aware of the importance of smoke alarms in providing early detection. In removing the backup battery or covering the alarm to prevent false alarms, they are putting themselves and other occupants at greater risk of serious injury or possible death.

8.10 Building management to implement and enforce a good housekeeping policy to prevent the accumulation and storage of combustibles and other items on the balconies, ensuring that there is minimal material to fuel a fire.

8.11 That the ABCB, in conjunction with Standards Australia and the appropriate standards committee (FP18), investigate appropriate test methods that reflect the actual performance of external wall assemblies under all fire conditions (For example ISO 13785-2:2002(E)), for future inclusion in NCC Volume 1.

8.12 That all relevant Australian state building agencies/authorities develop strategies and policies for the risk mitigation of the potential fire hazard associated with the use of combustible Aluminium/Polyethylene composite panelling within their jurisdiction. This involves existing Type A and B constructions and where there is no documented evidence to show compliance with the performance requirements of the BCA.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.


United Firefighters Union Australia (UFUA) summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Other report summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations;

Taken from; Genco, G. (2014) (Appendix in Badrock & Bryant, 2014).



The fire that occurred at the Lacrosse building was well managed during the course of the emergency and all parties involved came together and dealt with the issues at hand. Occupants were alerted and evacuated, systems worked with no fatalities or serious injuries, temporary accommodation was set up and provided by all agencies and emergency building issues that could be dealt with were done so within good time frames to allow partial occupation under controlled circumstances.

The fire intensity and how it spread vertically through the building caused further investigation into why was it not contained. Inspection of the building, after the fire brought focus upon the external wall cladding which was identified and sent for testing by the MFB. The test results from the CSIRO contained within the PIA, has confirmed that the wall cladding system (Alucobest) is not non-combustible. This raised further questions of where did the regulatory system go wrong in preventing this from occurring. Is it accreditation of product, is it the standards, is it the process of building approval to occupancy permit or is it practitioner failure?

Also highlighted as a result of observations after the fire is the issue of occupancy numbers within apartments and possible increased density. Is this a problem for the future and are our building codes and standards designed to accommodate this increase in density or short term use. Also does our regulatory framework have the adequate mechanisms to police and control these functions, if there is a need to do so?

In further considering the regulatory system required to bring the building into compliance it highlights that the provisions of the Act and Regulations are not suited to dealing with large, complex and existing buildings and how we are using these buildings today. This results in frustration and an additional burden for local government and property owners.

A flow on question back to the regulatory framework will also be, who pays for the fix or should there have been insurance to cover this.

The City of Melbourne should advocate that there be a review of the Building Act 1993, building regulations and the process contained to enable our building regulatory framework to cope not only with current complex buildings but also existing buildings and possible future building product or systems developments. As an example, the concept of prefabricated modules is being experimented with, which depending on where they are manufactured may throw into question what standards they are following and how do we ensure that they are compliant with our standards.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.


IFE Commentary & lessons if applicable

None produced at this time.

Known available source documents

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FRS (Melbourne Fire Brigade) Incident Report/s

Badrock, G. & Bryant, R. (2014). Melbourne high rise fire 25 Nov 2014 post incident report Redacted Post incident analysis report; Lacrosse Docklands 673-675 La Trobe Street, Docklands. Melbourne Fire Brigade. Richmond, Victoria.

Genco, G. (2014). Appendix 1 – Municipal building surveyors report; Lacrosse Docklands 673 La Trobe Street, Docklands. Part of Badrock and Bryant 2014 – pages 42 to 61. City of Melbourne.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

United Firefighters Union Australia (UFUA) Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Health & Safety Environment Australia (HSEA) Incident Report/s and/or improvement notices

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Victoria Police Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Ambulance Victoria Incident Report

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CISRO) Reports/investigations/research

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Coroner’s report/s and/or notices


Other information sources

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Service learning material

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Videos available

Jayden. (2014). Fire accident at docklands residence 25/11/2014 around 2:30 am. [online]. Available here. (Accessed 15th October, 2017). Youtube.

Ирина Давыдова. (2014). Residents flee Docklands apartment blaze at 01:40. [online]. Available here. (Accessed 15th October, 2017). Youtube.

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

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