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Sun May 19 2019

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Investigation finds multiple problems in evacuated Sydney tower

22 Feb Design and construction issues contributed to the structural problems that forced December’s evacuation of a new 36-storey Australian tower block, an investigation has found.

The report includes more than 20 photographs of damaged areas of the building
The report includes more than 20 photographs of damaged areas of the building

The final report has been released on an investigation into the problems in the Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park. The report outlines the reasons for the problems together the remediation needed. It also makes recommendations – including a better system of reviews - to prevent a similar situation arising again.

The report was prepared for the New South Wales government by professors Mark Hoffman, John Carter and Stephen Foster. It makes similar recommendations to those of a recent investigation by Professor Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir looking at the whole building and construction industry around Australia.

Hoffman, Carter and Foster were asked to consider the cause of the structural damage to the Opal Tower, possible remedial actions for repair and recommendations to avoid future similar problems with high-rise construction.

They said in a statement: “Our final report confirms that a number of structural design and construction issues, including non-compliance with national codes and standards were responsible for the observed damage at Opal Tower.

“We found some of the as-constructed hob beams and panel assemblies were under designed according to the National Construction Code and Australian Standards, leaving the beams prone to failure. We also found construction and material deficiencies likely contributed to the damage to the hob beams on levels 4 and 10.”

The investigators consider that the building is overall structurally sound and the localised damage to the building can be rectified to ensure the building is compliant with the National Construction Code. The call for qualified structural engineers to check the final design and construction proposals in detail before major rectification works begin and before the building is deemed completely safe for occupancy.

They also offer recommendations focused on improving the system of independent review and monitoring in the structural design and construction of high-rise buildings, making it more public and transparent. There should be increased accountability by requiring registration of structural engineers and independent third-party checks of critical elements of the design during the construction of these types of buildings, they said. “We also recommend the creation of a new Building Structure Review Board to establish and publish the facts relating to major structural damage of buildings arising from structural design and construction, to investigate their causes and to recommend regulatory changes as needed.”

They added that it is worth noting that this was a very rare occurrence and that they are confident in the strength of the National Construction Code and Australian building standards in terms of building safety.

Minister for better regulation Matt Kean said the government supports the direction of the report’s recommendations. “The biggest recommendation in today’s report is about registering engineers – and we’ve already committed to that,” he said. “In fact, in many ways, we are going further by accepting the vast majority Shergold Weir’s recommendations, appointing a building commissioner and ensuring building practitioners owe a duty of care to homeowners.

“We will be working through the detail of today’s report with our new building commissioner to make sure that when homeowners are handed over the keys to a new building, it is safe, structurally sound and free from major defects.”


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