Will Tougher Regulations Prevent Another Opal Tower?
The 3,000 residents of Sydney’s Opal Tower suffered a major scare on Christmas Eve when a concrete panel within the building cracked. Because of safety concerns, all 34 stories of the building were evacuated.
State investigators are not letting residents back inside the recently-completed building in Sydney’s Olympic Park until they’ve completed a thorough investigation into the matter.
The New South Wales government has asked two engineering professors from separate universities to examine the crack and write a report on the safety hazards involved.
Furthermore, the government is now targeting shady building certifiers who are quick to certify a building as safe just to get a quick payday.
This negligence puts many people’s lives at risk, so it is understandable why the government would want to go after these lousy certifiers.
To combat this growing problem, the New South Wales state government proposed stricter regulations to prevent developers from selecting their own certifiers, so residents can be sure approved buildings were inspected by only the most professional building certifiers.
Opal Tower Evacuation
New South Wales has been dealing with a lot of shady developers and certifiers in recent years. When the Opal Tower fiasco took place, many within the construction industry weren’t surprised to hear about its emergency evacuation.
According to Professor Bill Randolph of the University of New South Wales’ City Futures Research Centre, these problems happen throughout the industry. Developers construct apartment buildings so quickly that inspectors struggle to keep up with the influx and any possible code violations.
In 2012, a Bankstown, NSW building suffered a major fire because of multiple building code violations. Three years later the state government commissioned former Treasury secretary Michael Lambert to evaluate the state’s existing building regulations.
Based on his review, Lambert submitted a report to the state government, which included almost 150 recommendations he thought should be made to the state’s building codes.
The government only implemented one of those recommendations, which was a requirement for high-rise buildings to get their fire systems certified.
Lambert warns that many more buildings in New South Wales are suffering from defects. No other state has this problem to the extent of New South Wales.
Opal Tower Report
New South Wales planning minister Anthony Roberts requested an investigation of the Dec. 24 incident at Opal Tower. He chose two professors who are deans of engineering at their universities: John Carter of the University of Newcastle and Mark Hoffman of the University of New South Wales.
Their job was to determine whether the Opal Tower is safe for residents to return. If not, they were tasked with recommending the best ways to make the building safer for the residents to return.
Based on their preliminary findings, the engineers determined Opal Tower is mostly in good shape and will not collapse.
However, there is still some damage to the panels and hob beams that needs to be repaired. The engineers need more information to determine how this damage might have occurred. There also are several design issues that need to be addressed.
NSW Tough New Laws
In 2018, 163 complaints were made to the Building Professionals Board regarding various building certifiers in New South Wales. In response, the state government has passed new laws that attempt to give more independence to building certifiers.
That way, certifiers are not specifically chosen by developers. Instead, developers will be appointed certifiers through either a rotation scheme, cab rank scheme or time limit scheme. There also are now stricter licensing regulations and laws by which certifiers must abide.
NSW Response to Opal Tower Saga
In wake of the Opal Tower incident, New South Wales now plans to crack down on bad building certifiers. One measure includes auditing at least 25 percent of all building certifications in the state each year.
Specifically, new policies focus on buildings constructed over the last few years since those are deemed to have the highest risk of problems. Any certifiers who are deemed negligent or corrupt will be banned from the industry.
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