Australian buildings are cloaked in "millions of square metres" of flammable cladding, and authorities have been aware of the safety threat since at least 2010.
In the wake of London's deadly tower fire, Fairfax Media can reveal the Australian Building Codes Board was told seven years ago that combustible cladding was widely installed across the nation.
It's the same type of cladding that may have been installed on London's Grenfell Tower during a recent renovation, it is understood.
A letter sent to the building codes board in June 2010 by a fire safety consultant said aluminium composite panels had been widely installed in Australia for about 25 years. However the panels did not comply with building regulations because they were combustible.
"The typical products are not able to achieve the criteria nominated in [the building code] to be deemed non-combustible," the letter said.
It said "millions of square metres" of the material was installed on building facades.
Following the letter, the Australian Building Codes Board started arranging to send a national advisory note warning the industry about cladding requirements.
However, those negotiations stalled in the Building Codes Committee in 2012 after a draft letter was produced.
"Following a review of the draft advisory note the ABCB office formed the view that it couldn't be issued by the office as a national advisory note," said ACBC general manager Neil Savery.
"However the note was provided to the states and territories for distribution in their jurisdiction as appropriate."
It is not clear if any states sent out the advisory note, and it was not until 2016, following a major cladding fire in Melbourne in 2014, that an official national advisory note was distributed.
Victorian safety engineer Dr Tony Enright said if warnings had been sent out earlier on the cladding "many buildings out there now with the 100 per cent polyethylene core probably would not have received a building permit".
"I think it's a golden opportunity missed," he said.
The Lacrosse building in Docklands. Photo: Chris Hopkins
An ongoing audit has identified at least 20 buildings in Melbourne with non-compliant cladding, including the Lacrosse apartments in Docklands which was engulfed by a major fire in November 2014.
Grave concerns have been raised about the tower. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade says lives would have been lost in the blaze if conditions had been different.
And a number of industry insiders say they have doubts over whether the Lacrosse building is safe to occupy given the flammable cladding remains on the building. The City of Melbourne has repeatedly insisted that the apartment building is safe to occupy.
Online records show the Grenfell Tower in London may have recently been renovated with exterior aluminium composite cladding panels. Residents have also claimed that it was the cladding that appeared to be fuelling the blaze and that strips of it were falling off in flames.
More to come.