The Opal Tower story – how it has shaken the building and construction industry

The Opal Tower story

Let’s take a bird’s eye view of what happened at the Opal Tower, what it means for the various players within the building and construction industry and how the NSW government is addressing the issue so far.

 

What happened at the Opal Tower:

  • On Christmas eve, the holiday spirit was dampened for residents of the Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic park as they heard loud noises from the building and rushed outside fearing their safety.

 

  • Cracks were found in the walls of the 10th storey apartment of the relatively new 34-storey high-rise Sydney Olympic Park building. Further investigations also revealed structural issues in the 4th and 16th floors of the building as well and there are doubts about the stability of the building’s foundation.

 

  • It was found that the building’s cantilevered balconies have been sagging gradually along the on the outer edges. This has caused cracks to open in the walls of the building.

 

  • About 51 apartments were evacuated while investigations are being extensively carried out to find the level of risk. The residents’ interim stay was arranged in nearby Sydney hotels but that could possibly stretch on for months while investigations continue.

 

  • The builder and developer maintain that the building’s foundations are stable, and the apartments are safe for re-entry. However, building owners are questioning the safety of returning to their apartments until they’re assured of its safety.

 

  • Apartment owners fear the value of their property may have taken a plunge financially due to the fault in the building – this raises questions about the financial pitfall of investing in luxury apartments that are built in haste or with sub-standard material. 9 News covered the Opal Tower story in 60 Minutes that highlights how gaps in the Australian building and construction industry is fuelling the housing crisis.

 

  • As the debate continues around the responsibilities of all the stakeholders in the building project, this incident has set a precedent calling for further probe into the safety and compliance status of many other recent multi-story strata buildings in the state

 

  • Further investigations revealed that there could be deeper issues with regard to the stability of the building – the integrity of the foundational structures and the underlying land is being examined by experts

 

  • Recently, engineering experts also reported that at numerous locations throughout the tower, certain crucial beams didn’t meet design standards and were susceptible to failure by shear compression and bursting. This has significantly increased the amount of stress in the beams on levels four, 10, 16 and 26 of the tower.

 

  • As per the interim report from government appointed industry expert evaluators, these hob beams need to further evaluated for structural soundness as per the Australian Building Standards and corrected at the earliest.

 

How the NSW Government is addressing the issue:

To prevent such mishaps in the future, the New South Wales government has authorised several independent agencies to carry out investigations to get to the root of the problem, find the factors that could have caused the damage and identify non-compliant parties.

In response the ‘Building confidence‘ report by Professor Peter Shergold AC and Bronwyn Weir, the government plans to put in certain key measures to regulate the building and construction industry as prescribed in the Building Code of Australia. The compliance status of the builders, developers, inspectors and certifiers involved in the high-rise strata buildings across the state is being scrutinised. Additionally, there are plans to revisit and fortify legislation and building regulations to address gaps in compliance.

What happened in New South Wales could very well have happened in any other state. Here’s an article for Queensland and Victoria property owners to also stay on the front foot with respect to building defects.

 

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