Opal debacle creates massive headache for owners corporation

On Christmas Eve, emergency services were called to Sydney’s Opal Tower to help residents evacuate from a 36-storey building after loud cracking sounds were heard and cracks appeared in walls on the tenth floor.

Opal Tower, which is in Sydney’s Olympic Park, contains 392 apartments, and all were evacuated. It’s unknown when residents will be able to return.

Some residents were forced to spend Christmas day in their car.

The interim report was released on Tuesday, revealing details of a number of problems in the design and construction of Opal Tower which caused the damage.

The report reveals that some parts of the building were different to the design drawings.

For example, the precast concrete panels were larger than the beams they lie on by 20mm.

The design drawings show the beams as the same size.

The bearing capabilities of the hob beams of Levels 10 and 4 also did not meet the required standards.

However, overall, the report concludes the building is structurally sound, and not in danger of collapse.

Significant work is required to rectify the problems.

It remains uncertain at the time of writing when residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

The body corporate has advised residents not to return to the building.

The saga has fuelling concerns about the erection of poor quality buildings in Australia during the recent construction boom, and has many concerned the problems may be more widespread than previously thought.


Widespread review needed


At Beyond Strata, we believe quality control, certification and regulation of building planning, development, construction and post-construction needs to be thoroughly reviewed, from the point of views of all stakeholders.

The appropriate mechanisms need to be put in place to hold people to account when failures occur, as in the case of Opal.

Historically, it has largely fallen to the owners corporation to manage the rectification of major defects, and there appears to be little proper support to efficiently and cost effectively rectify problems.


Building defects relatively commonplace in Australia


Icon has assured owners that it has insurance to cover the disaster, but the Opal situation certainly highlights how important it is to have protections for owners if poor workmanship results in building defects.

Building defects can place a considerable burden on owners corporations, which are often run by volunteers with very little experience in property management.

However, building defects are relatively common.

Research conducted by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre in 2012 found that 72 per cent of NSW’s apartment blocks had defects.

For buildings constructed after the year 2000, a shocking 85 per cent of buildings had defects.


Opal problems take defects to a new level


While issues with waterproofing and tiling problems are relatively commonplace, the evacuation of an entire building takes the responsibilities of an owners corporations to new levels.

For Opal, rectification of the problems may be compounded by the fact that because the building is so new, the owners corporation is likely to have only limited funds to draw from.

Meanwhile, the owners corporation remains concerned about the destructive nature of the remediation work being done on the building, and are refusing to move back into the building.


Author: Beyond Strata

Beyond Strata is a professional owners corporation management firm that was founded on overarching principles of professionalism, honesty, integrity, openness and transparency. We strive to continually improve our people, culture, technology and processes improving our firm’s ability to provide the highest level of service possible to our clients.

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