What We’ve Learnt From Opal Tower: How To Avoid The Unexpected Costs & Inconvenience

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In August 2018, construction of the Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park was completed. Designed by Bates Smart Architects, developed by Ecove, and built by Icon, the building housed 392 apartments. However, on Christmas Eve of 2018, residents reported a number of issues including exposed panelling, cracks and loud banging noises. Over the next few days, over 3000 people were evacuated from in and around the building.

Issues with the Opal Tower

Although the developer denied any responsibility for the issues, an independent report soon found that there were four areas of weakness in the construction:

  1. The hob beans (responsible for creating stability and redistributing weight) were underdesigned, which allowed pressure to build and cause cracking and bursting.
  2. The hob bean joints were partially grouted, which reduced their resilience to pressure and movement.
  3. The original construction and repairs to the concrete panels, plus the choice of concrete, resulted in structural weaknesses.
  4. The poor structural quality of the hob beams resulted in concrete panel damage on Level 10.

One year on, owners and tenants are finally able to start moving back in, but the repairs have cost $11 million in relocation expenses, and over $30 million in building repairs.

Why poor construction occurs

As Sydney’s population continues to grow, greater housing density means that there is an increasing demand for apartment spaces. Unfortunately, the speed of growth and lack of regulation means that there has been increasing pressure to construct buildings quickly and cheaply, and building quality has not been monitored as rigorously as it should have.

Furthermore, the sad fact is that once apartments are sold, developers have very few legal obligations to the buyers.

Laws to protect owners and tenants

Since the Opal incident, the NSW government has drafted regulations aimed at tightening the rules for private certifiers. Under the new Building and Development Certifiers Regulation 2019, every part in the construction process, from those drafting a design to the final builder, must registered and qualified, with a Building Commissioner being responsible for enforcing the new laws.

However in the meantime, if you are intending on buying off the plan, you should protect yourself by carefully reading the contract and ensuring it:

  • Describes the building and construction process in as much detail as possible (such as materials, brands, quality of finishes etc.)
  • Includes assurances regarding the standard of construction and ability to verify checks during construction, following construction, and before the completion of your purchase
  • Requires the developer to provide you with certificates of currency of the professional indemnity insurance carried by all parties involved
  • Provides the name of the certifier of the occupation certificate
  • Gives you access to the certifier-approved/Council construction plans provides you with the certifier’s statement and copies of all compliance certificates
  • Gives you permission to have an independent building consultant inspect the property prior to settlement

Do you have concerns regarding the construction quality of your new strata property? Get in touch with our team today for more information on our range of strata services or explore our document bank for more information.

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If you would like any of this information explained in further detail or are looking for personal advice, please feel free to email our strata specialist Taylah who will be happy to answer your questions.

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