Cracked Opal Tower just ‘tip of iceberg’ in under-regulated building industry

Australia Business

Australia’s construction industry is in need of an immediate audit in the wake of the “cracked” Opal Tower debacle, Australia’s peak strata body has warned.

While the evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower on Christmas Eve highlighted dodgy practices in Australia’s building industry, the issues have been going on for decades Strata Community Association’s CEO Alisha Fisher said.

“The bottom line is that the last 12 months have been a horror story for the construction sector in Australia,” she told The Australian.

Chief executive officer of the Strata Community Association Alisha Fisher has warned the Opal debacle is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

Chief executive officer of the Strata Community Association Alisha Fisher has warned the Opal debacle is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

SBS News

“Like we’ve seen with the cracking at Opal Tower and in cases where buildings with flammable cladding catch alight suddenly, there’s no telling when Australian apartment owners will be next affected by poor construction.

“This is an issue of potentially epidemic proportion and we believe it needs to be treated that way with a national construction sector audit.”

She called the Opal Tower just the “tip of the iceberg”.

It’s not the first warning about Australian building practices in the wake of the Opal evacuation.

Last month, the Builders Collective of Australia’s national president Phillip Dwyer told SBS News an overhaul was vital because a “she’ll be right” culture of regulation had allowed builders to cut corners.

“The actual regulation and compliance of the industry is nowhere near strong enough and that is the core issue of why we exist and why we are concerned,” he said.

“It is too early to say what the issues are with the Sydney high-rise but most certainly we are not terribly surprised that something like this could happen.

Residents were forced to evacuate the Opal Tower on Christmas Eve.

Residents were forced to evacuate the Opal Tower on Christmas Eve.

AAP

“There are buildings that have been compromised and there are any amount of builders and maybe even sub-trades and so on that really don’t have the expertise to be doing what they are doing within our industry.”

Residents of the Opal Tower were first forced to evacuate on Christmas Eve after the building started cracking.

Four days later residents were back out on the street, to make way for an investigation.

Opal residents were told on Friday most of them could return home – however, the building’s own strata committee warned them not to.

An interim report compiled by university engineering experts Mark Hoffman and John Carter and commissioned by Planning Minister Anthony Roberts stated it found “no evidence of any issues with the foundation of the building”.

“Our interim report will continue to support the view that the building is structurally sound,” Profs Hoffman and Carter said in a statement 

The building’s strata committee has urged residents not to move back until all experts state in writing that it is safe to do so.

“(Until then) residents should err on the side of caution,” the committee wrote in an email.

“It is important to ensure that residents do not take any unnecessary risks.”

Construction workers in front of Opal Tower.Construction workers in front of Opal Tower. Work is ongoing in some of the apartments.

Construction workers in front of Opal Tower. Work is ongoing in some of the apartments.

AAP

An Icon spokesperson last week said it would continue to fund accommodation for displaced residents until at least January 16 or until all experts had agreed the tower was safe.

Developer Ecove’s director Bassam Aflak defended the building in a statement.

“It’s a high-quality building. Ecove has delivered a project that is well above the industry standard,” he said.

“The requirement from the Sydney Olympic Park Authority was that the building be high quality, and we have delivered on that. While this incident suggests otherwise, the contract with Icon specified that the building be of high-quality Australian design and construction.”

In December, he rejected accusations there was a broader problem in the industry and a culture of cutting corners.

“There’s been no cutting of corners,” he said.

Some of the apartment owners have flagged a potential class-action suit against whoever is found liable for the tower’s woes.

Residents of the Opal Tower will be allowed to return home this weekend but the building’s own strata committee is warning them not to.

Residents of the Opal Tower will be allowed to return home this weekend but the building’s own strata committee is warning them not to.

AAP

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