Sydney’s Opal Tower: NSW orders probe after ‘cracking’, evacuation of residents
The NSW planning department has started a probe into developer Ecove’s Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park, after residents of the 392-apartment tower were evacuated on Christmas Eve.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said on Wednesday his department would “comprehensively investigate and report to me all steps taken” to ensure the building’s structural integrity.
“The investigation into compliance with conditions of approval for this building has already begun,” Mr Roberts said. “I will not speculate on the cause of the problem, but once the investigation by the Department of Planning is complete, I will make it public.”
Developer Ecove on Wednesday said the likely fault was a “localised” problem of a concrete panel, that residents would be protected by warranties covering the recently completed building and that builder Icon was bore liability for defects.
“Icon, the builder has full liability on the design and construction of Opal Tower,” Ecove chief executive Bassam Aflak said. “The company is a well-established high-quality builder. They are the experts, and Ecove has outsourced that expertise.”
“We confirm that late last night two structural engineers approved the building safe for occupation and 341 apartments were re-opened for resident access,” he said.
“The authorities have required that 51 apartments be further investigated and tested to determine the potential cause of the incident and we hope that these apartments will also soon be approved for access to residents”.
WSP Australia was the structural engineer on the building. McKenzie Group was the building certifier. Wood & Grieve Engineers, who were the hydraulic consultants on the building, the tallest in the area, said the design of the building was made harder due to the presence of storm water and sewer services passing through the site.
The building’s height created “excessive pressures” on the pipework and fittings installed on the lower half of the building, Wood & Grieve said.
“The large structural offsets at the base of the towers created a particular challenge,” the consultancy said .”The difficulty was in the coordination of transferring sewer and storm water services through the deep transfer beams and large transfer slabs.
The worst damage occurred on Level 10 of the Bates Smart-designed building, with plaster falling off walls around doors. The incident caused road closures and the temporary suspension of a local train service between Lidcombe and Olympic Park.
Engineers who entered the building late on Monday indicated the buildings had moved by one to two millimetres.
Both the police and Fire and Rescue said the building had no history of structural problems before Monday, a point Mr Aflak echoed.
“It’s a high-quality building,” he said. “Ecove has delivered a project that is well above the industry standard. Until now it’s a project that’s gained attention because of its quality.”
Opal Tower is at the southern end of the Olympic Park Parkview Precinct and part of the Sydney Olympic Park Master Plan 2030 to turn the park into a new town centre with new homes and amenities.
It is one of four towers that Ecove has built in the precinct, including the two-building Australia Towers and 1 Australia Avenue.
The developer is now developing a fifth tower, the 38-storey Boomerang Tower.