Not my fault: Developer admits he’s ‘stunned’ by $165M Sydney tower’s cracked walls that has forced evacuations

Not my fault: Developer admits he’s ‘stunned’ by $165M Sydney tower’s cracked walls that has forced evacuations

Source: https://www.msn.com, December 26, 2018
By: Kylie Stevens and Nic White

The developer of a new Sydney high-rise apartment building says he’s “stunned” by structural defects which left many residents homeless and insists any blame must placed on the construction company that built the luxury tower.

Up to 3,000 residents were evacuated from Opal Tower and neighboring buildings at Sydney Olympic Park on Christmas Eve after those living in the recently completed building heard and saw cracking in a wall.

While many residents were later able to return home, others were forced to spend Christmas making alternative living arrangements after 51 units in the 38-story building were deemed unsafe.

Developer Ecove released a statement Wednesday where director Bassam Aflak described Opal Tower as a “high quality building.”

“Ecove has delivered a project that is well above the industry standard,” Mr Aflak said. “The important fact is that there is absolutely no danger for the residents. We’re confident this localized issue can be fixed. Most people are now back in their homes.”

He reassured residents they were covered under warranty and that the developer would help them through that process.

“We’ve all been stunned by what’s happened, and we’ve been heartened by the way the community has rallied to support the residents, from the emergency service crews and the Salvation Army, to the local businesses, hotels and other people who have worked through Christmas to help us through this time,” Mr Aflak said.

“We, like the residents, are anxious that the builder defines the problem and resolves it as soon as possible.”

Daily Mail Australia has contacted the builder Icon for comment.

It’s not known when residents from the 51 unsafe units will be able to return home.

Resident Delsa Daryaei told news.com.au her Christ­mas plans have been ruined.

“We spent all of our money just for two nights in a hotel,” Ms Daryaei said. “It’s Christmas, when everything is expensive. I’ve worked all year to have two weeks off, and now I can’t do anything.”

Top architects are “bewildered” as to how cracks formed in the wall of the brand new tower block on Monday.

Residents said they heard loud cracks coming from the 10th floor through the morning and raised the alarm about 2:45 p.m.

Firefighters and public works engineers found a large crack along an internal support wall after the building moved one to two millimetres.

A photo from inside the building showed a plaster wall collapsed in a heap and a crack down the length of the wall. Yellow tape was on the door handle.

Some residents said the doors to the building were jammed and police had to break them down with heavy equipment to help residents escape.

The cause of the fault in the building, which was completed in March and opened in August, was still unknown, as planning experts slammed the developer.

Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said the cracks were “staggering,” given the building was essentially brand new.

“It’s a bit bewildering to me that something like this could happen. Buildings like that go through all sorts of checks and balances,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Johnson said the problem would either be a “fundamental error” in how the building was constructed, or the ground it was built on.

“The only other option is that something underneath the building has changed. That could well create tensions through the structure itself,” he said.

Opal Tower was build on reclaimed land that used to be a swamp and is less than 300 meters from another mangrove swamp.

The crisis prompted the NSW Government to urgently investigate “what steps were taken to ensure the structural integrity of that building and other buildings at Olympic Park.”

A spokesman for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said he was “very concerned about the situation with the Opal Tower’.

“Obviously his first concern is the safety of the residents,” he said. “He wants to assure the affected residents that this matter is being treated with extreme urgency.”

A structural engineer who said he worked as a site inspector during Sydney’s building boom in 2015-16 pointed the finger at dodgy business practices.

“I regularly saw poor planning, poor execution, poor workmanship during my limited site inspections, and that’s only the parts I was looking at,” he wrote on social media.  “Several of the projects I’ve worked on required remedial action during construction due to poor planning and workmanship.”

He listed six common problems that stemmed from poor communication during design revisions, corner cutting, and too much time pressure.

The engineer also questioned the propagation of private certifying companies that sign off on projects without public input.

“This whole industry with the private certifying authorities, councils getting kickbacks for developments, it’s a mess,” he wrote. “I can say there is no one working on any construction project in the residential space that is independent.”

Opal Tower is only months old

The 117-meter Opal tower has 392 apartments over 34 stories along with a childcare center and other businesses and amenities.

Brand new high rise was built alongside numerous other similar blocks in Olympic Park as it transforms into a major population center.

The building was only completed in March and opened in August, and cost $165 million to build by developer Ecove, which built many of the others nearby.

Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000.

“Everyone has a vested interest in seeing this thing get built in the quickest way possible. It’s frankly disgusting.”

However, he believed the issue with Opal Tower was likely not serious – though there could be bigger problems appearing in years to come.

“I think what’s happened is that there are structural elements which haven’t been grouted or only partially grouted,” he said. “The building’s not going to fall over because of it but it’s not what you would consider serviceable.”

Opal Tower was approved by the Planning Department as a “state significant development” in 2015 and certified by a private certifier.

“The private certifier has the original occupation certificate and all related structural, electrical, hydraulic certificates issued by engaged engineers,” Parramatta City Council said.

Opal Tower is one of several new apartment towers in Olympic Park and cost $165 million to build.

It was developed by Ecove, which also built many other new towers in the suburb along with One30 Hyde Park tower in the Sydney CBD.

Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000.

“We are deeply sympathetic for the concern and anxiety of residents and owners and are actively following up the builder and the builder’s engineers to hopefully provide residents and owners with further information,” Ecove said.

The tower was designed by architecture firm Bates Smart and built by Icon Construction.

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