Case study: Opal Tower

What: Opal Tower is a residential tower block in Sydney, Australia. The building has 392 apartments housing over 3,000 people.

The tower block was completed in August 2018 and built over 36 floors.

Where: Sydney’s Olympic Park suburb.

Cost: The building cost developer Ecove an estimated $165 million (Australian Dollars) to construct.

Flats at Opal Tower cost between $800,000 to $2.5 million each.

What went wrong on the project: In December 2018, residents within Opal Tower were evacuated after hearing cracking sounds. Visible cracks appeared in the tower’s foundations.

Cracks on the tenth floor led to an evacuation amid fears the entire building would collapse.

Independent consultants have recommended all residents remain in temporary accommodation until the tower is declared safe.

Icon, the builder of Opal Towers, has been forced to pay more than $10 million to house residents in temporary accommodation since the December incident.

Residents started to move back into the tower block throughout 2019.

Repair work inside the building has also been hit by controversy. TV news obtained footage of a “patch-up job” inside the tower, with visible cracks in supporting pillars and concrete slabs.

Opal Tower residents claim there is more damage than Icon has admitted to.

Residents have launched a class-action lawsuit against the New South Wales government, claiming the building was not developed in line with the Home Building Act.

The Opal debacle has sparked concerns about the quality of new developments across Australia’s biggest city. A high volume of high rise apartment blocks rose up over the past decade to accommodate a rapidly increasing population, but standards are said to have suffered as a result.

Australian construction experts have blamed the Opal saga on the privatisation of Australian building certification. They argue there is uncertainty around building regulation, particularly when it spills over federal lines.

Since the Opal Tower debacle, Australian minister Matt Kean announced a crackdown on rogue certifiers in the building industry. An interim report found significant failures in the way the tower was designed and built.

As of September 2019, most residents had moved back into the tower. Yet the building has largely been blacklisted by local real estate agents.

Published 2019

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