Another high-rise tower experiences major cracking

On Christmas Eve, all residents at Sydney’s 392-apartment Opal Tower were evacuated after serious cracking was discovered. And six months later, around half of the complex remains unoccupied with engineers still undertaking remediation works.

Last month, residents of a 12 year-old, 10-storey high-rise apartment complex in Mascot were evacuated after cracks were discovered in the transfer slab beam supporting the building’s primary corner.

Now a 3 year-old residential apartment complex in Campsie has experienced major cracking, according to 7News Sydney:

Back in February, Bronwyn Weir – the construction lawyer who last year co-authored a key industry report – said “Opal is the manifestation of a system in trouble” and “the tip of the iceberg of what’s potentially going on in buildings”, with more building failures similar to the cracks that impacted Sydney’s Opal Tower inevitable.

Around the same time, Michael Lambert – the former secretary of NSW Treasury who also reviewed building regulation for the New South Wales government – similarly warned that the defects in the Opal Tower “are likely just the tip of the iceberg”.

Indeed, The SMH reports that hundreds of millions of dollars in damages have been paid out to the owners of buildings across Sydney where defects have been discovered:

Damages exceeding $30 million in five years have been paid out to the owners of buildings across Sydney where defects have been discovered, in court judgments said to reflect the “tip of the iceberg” of the city’s building standards crisis.

Experts say hundreds of millions of dollars more have been paid out confidentially in cases that settled before reaching the courthouse steps.

Scores of other owners have missed out on compensation for problems emerging outside NSW statutory warranty periods of two years for minor defects and six years for major defects…

“We’ve had ceilings collapse in peoples’ apartments that weren’t affixed to the slab properly,” [lawyer David Bannerman said].

“There’s buildings where the roofs have blown off … we’ve had matters where bricks have fallen out of walls and landed on peoples’ beds…

“Countless videos of water pouring into apartments through holes and light fittings. And what’s a growing trend at the moment is people getting serious illnesses as a result of mould due to waterproofing issues.”

Only time will tell how pervasive the problems are. But when viewed alongside the proliferation of flammable cladding, Australia could be facing a systemic problem effecting possibly thousands of apartments built this century:

The whole situation is an unmitigated disaster.

Policy makers spent years reducing “redtape” because it was viewed as some sort impediment to business, rather than necessary rules and regulations meant to stop shoddy building practices alongside the use of dangerous building materials.

At the same time, the federal government has flooded our major cities with migrants, which necessarily requires the construction of huge volumes of apartments quickly, thereby compromising build quality.

Enough’s enough. It’s time for a Royal Commission into building regulations, standards and practices. The whole development system needs to be turned upside down.

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Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith is an economist and has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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    • A negative supply shock I take it creating a 2-tiered market. The price of these will crash and demand for traditional homes will rise on the margin as less people trust new construction.

  1. If they start crashing to the ground, articles like your one titled “Australian high-rise apartment crash gathers pace” will be in bad taste.

  2. ErmingtonPlumbing

    “It’s time for a Royal Commission into building regulations, standards and practices.”

    I wonder if a Royal commission into the above would partly place blame of our to higher rate of Immigration, creating to great an increase in the amount of construction required to house new arrivals in Syd and Melbourne.
    Ya just can’t quintuple the amount of Construction over a short period of time and expect to maintain a high degree of competence among contractors.
    This disaster was completely predictable.

    • What effect did the Banking RC have?
      RC into housing will have the same outcome as Nobody with skin in the game actually wants change. Greed wins over morals and principles every time.
      The new dog Sh1te Australia. I’m alright jack. Only a Depression or WW3 can save us now.😲
      Hopefully it happens soon while kids still at school.

    • when couple of these buildings need to be demolished (hope they don’t collapse and kill people) we will start to see MSM inviting MBers and people like Phillip Soos and Martin North to explain the issue at hand. Funniest part will be when they will ask questions like “how did this come around” playing stupid as if none of them could see it coming.

    • It is actually the fault of immigration restrictions because we could not bring in the millions of skilled tradies required. Checkmated again!

  3. LabrynthMEMBER

    Frasers built the Clempton Park/Campsie development. They are a big outfit, it will be interesting to their response as the developer and building.

    If it is a swift and clear response there might be a flight to units built by large developers as they try and protect their brand and not risk contagion into the sales of current and future projects. Just like how car companies pay for any recalls required.

    • I’ve talked socially to people working on sites in Melbourne, some doing semiskilled labour, some doing more managerial on site stuff.
      They have been working for fly by night Chinese companies, and some very established Australian building companies.
      Standards seem particularly ordinary every where.
      The latest story involved a tower in the south Melbourne arts centre precinct, where they are building a new country there is so much development.
      – the foundations were laid, the inspectors signed off on the work and then some of the foundation materials were removed, and taken to another nearby building site, whilst the building of the tower above got underway.
      This was an Australian company, with a long history of building in Melbourne.
      We used to ski with some of their senior management, a bit older than us and long since retired.
      This is seriously crazy stuff.

  4. So you go down to your basement to get your car and you notice a massive crack on a pillar.
    What do you do? Do you alert strata? or do you get out some spackle and paint over it.?
    Well.. you do the right thing and they get an Engineer in to check it out.
    The Engineer comes down and checks it out and seems to think its minor but what do they do? Its a hot issue right now with many other buildings having faults. Do they want to take the risk? No way.
    They err on the side of caution and get everyone out to have a more thorough check.
    They get a team out with everyone treading on egg shells looking at every nook and cranny.
    Decide major works in needed causing a high special levy no one can pay and your in negative equity.
    Meanwhile your back at your parents place waiting for your turn to use the bathroom.

    I think a lot of people might think that the Spackle is not a bad idea.

  5. Some clown on the twitter feed accused 7 News of spreading fear because this news was a couple of weeks old. As if anything recently discovered that happened two weeks ago shouldn’t be reported on. And reporting The Truth should never happen if it results in people being afraid. Even if the fear (eg I might be killed if my house collapses) is actually quite reasonable and justified.

    Nothing, not even the truth, must disturb the property Ponzi.

    • The great irony is that the stuff we build in the 60/70/80s that was social housing still stands strong with very little maintenance. EG: Sirius in Sydney’s CBD will be around long after all these recent high rises have been torn down. It was possible to build back then and make them last, what has changed?

      • I suppose social housing was built to last forever (because they belonged to the state) and not turn a profit (so not much incentive to cut corners).

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        It was possible to build back then and make them last, what has changed?

        We’re capitalists now, not socialists.

    • A future LNP government will all of a sudden catch altruism and buy all the dodgy flats off the speculators that own them for a proper price (on account that said speculators will vote for them again) and then let them out as social housing (wining more votes). All with much fanfare just before an election of course.

  6. Notice how this looks like its been kept quiet for some time as a lot of work has happened before this has been exposed…must be a fair few in this case, maybe a way to check is investigate if there has been a spike in demand for those special pole supports they put up to stop the building from falling..tipp’n you’ll see demand has jumped…

    • proofreadersMEMBER

      Very good of you to draw the comparison to our banks. How good is Straya.

  7. Jolly Trollop 4

    Now imagine if Sydney was located even in an area of mild seismic activity how much of this poorly built shit would collapse. Fuck me.

  8. Opal Tower
    Mascot Tower
    Now Clemton Park Campsie

    Oddly – all of them have the same characteristics.
    Shoddy built high rise cage housing.
    Chinese ethnic slums (they are)
    Their foreign dirty money laundered in.
    And the building units rented out to migrant guestworkers in cash in hand subletting.

    Is this a case of Migrant guestworker overload?

    Certainly these buildings are at 2 or 3 times the expected occupancy density – 6 or 8 people per unit in cash in hand .

    Does that cause these buildings to crack under the strain & weight of all that dirty money and then the migrant guestworker tenants?

    Opal Tower Investigation Report excerpt:

    “There is compelling evidence the wrong size reinforcing bars were placed in this area during manufacture of this panel — 20mm diameter bars were used instead of 28mm diameter bars,” the report found.

    “It is likely that a combination of some of the above design and construction issues led to the observed structural damage on level 10.”

    The engineers concluded that a “progressive build-up of load on the structure as [the] apartments became occupied” culminated in the cracking“.

    -> progressive build up of load..
    code for too many Asian migrant guestworkers in bunk share & subletting.

    Entire buildings now cracking & falling like dominos under the migrant guestworker subletting overload…

    Perhaps not – as I jest – but let’s see how many people were really living in these buildings..

    You can almost guarantee those buildings in those areas would be majority foreign owned, usually via a PR proxy, many ‘rented out’ – and have at least double the normal intended resident occupancy.

      • kiwikarynMEMBER

        I was told by a builder working on one of those building sites, that they were using chinese rebar, and that they were structurally weak. Apparently they only check random samples of steel on import, so the bulk of it comes in unchecked. He said you could see the rebar starting to bend after about the 6th floor was added.

      • So we’re selling the Chinese iron ore and they’re selling us substandard rebar made from the same ore they buy from us?

    • UrbanWastelandMEMBER

      There were actual errors in the design and deficiencies in the concrete and panels.Would the building have failed if it hadn’t been overloaded? Who knows… I know, I know, it’s a fun narrative, but it’s a bit of a distraction from the main issue, which is the ubiquitously cavalier attitude to the difficulty of building a high-rise correctly. It’s a regulatory problem and it’s negligent ignorance and arrogance in the industry. What happens is that basically the same design and construction methodologies used for low- and mid-rise are applied to high-rise. It’s like taking Cessna drawings, scaling them up by a factor of five, and strapping some turbofans to the wings… with CASA going, “great job, boys.” What could go wrong?

      • 100%. We saw the bloke patching up a freshly poured concrete pillar as Opal was being built. Just put a shiny cover over it and it looks a million bucks. When there is no consequence for your negligence, it’s all good mate.

  9. The Campsie apartments were built on the site of a former Sunbeam appliance manufacturing site.

    Demolishing our manufacturing sector to house migrants from countries that now make our stuff.

  10. UrbanWastelandMEMBER

    I’m as harsh a critic of the industry as anyone (anyone on the inside, anyway), but fair’s fair: big cracks in the basement aren’t definitive evidence of failure. I bought off plan in Europe about 15 years ago, and the cracks that soon appeared in the basement scared the sh1t out of me. Huge areas of render fell off the walls as they moved, etc. The builder fixed the walls under warranty, no questions asked. I hired a structural engineer for an independent review, and it turned out all was ok. Granted, and so as not to contradict my comment above, this was mid-rise and not high-rise, but still.

    • But that’s the problem. In Europe the builder and developer more than likely has a legal obligation to fix defects. In Australia, neither give a sh1t.

  11. Hmmm how about the builders hooked on ice that aren’t drug tested? That surely has something to do with it. And how many mates of mates skilled workers did they have on site? This sounds like something that would happen after an untrained engineer graduated on his way to his PR. High rises just don’t crack apart like this. Look at the terrace houses built in the 1800s in Sydney! They are faring much better than these pick up sticks high rises.

  12. DominicMEMBER

    I just have to laugh at it all. All that black money, slum landlords, speculators … gunna get hosed big time. Perhaps a few innocents will get washed up in it all, but so be it — life has a habit of handing out tough lessons.