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Sydney’s Mascot Towers: Cracks Put Focus on Building Reform

Sydney’s Mascot Towers: Cracks Put Focus on Building Reform

Industry bodies are calling for an overhaul of the building and construction sector after hundreds of residents were evacuated from an apartment complex in Sydney, marking the second major evacuation of a residential apartment tower in months.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from the Mascot Towers on Friday night after engineers became concerned about cracks in primary support structure and facade masonry of the 10-year-old building in Sydney’s inner-suburb of Mascot.

It’s the second major evacuation in six months, after 3,000 residents of the Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park were evacuated from the building due to cracking and reports of movement.

Mascot towers cracks
▲ Mascot Towers: Photos taken inside the building show that the cracks are not just limited to the structural support beam in the basement.

On Monday, premier Gladys Berejiklian said that legislation to overhaul the building and construction industry would be introduced to parliament this week, with the aim of passing by the end of this year.

Berejiklian told reporters state government wants to “get to the root cause,” and plans to “hold everyone to account”.

“There was some speculation it could have been from things that happened in the near vicinity but we need to find out the cause before we know how to act,” she said.

‘Changes needed in building and construction sector’

While the cause of the cracks is not yet known, some residents have blamed the neighbouring newly-finished building, by Aland Development Group, saying they had felt vibrations while in their apartments during construction of the next door building.

Located at 27 Church Avenue, the development application for the neighbouring building known as Peak Towers had been rejected in 2014, but was later approved in 2016.

The Mascot Towers, the second cracked residential tower in months, has sparked concern about building and construction codes.

Engineers Australia said the situation was further evidence changes were needed in the building and construction sector.

“The evacuation of Opal Tower was a major wake-up call for New South Wales to get serious about reform,” spokesman Jonathan Russell said.

“It shouldn’t take a crisis for government to act in the interests of community safety and consumer protection.”

Related: Biggest Overhaul of Building Laws in NSW Following Opal

Mascot Towers Structural supports in basement.
▲ Mascot Towers: Structural supports in basement.

Building Management also issued an update on Monday, saying that meetings are organised for this week to discuss reports about the structure.

Slated for Thursday, the meeting will comprise a panel of experts, ranging from the Mascot Tower’s appointed engineer, NSW Fair Trading, building management, strata management, building construction lawyers and committee members, who will take questions from owners.

The email confirmed that a claim on the building’s insurance policy for temporary accommodation had been declined, as many of the Mascot Towers residents remain in limbo since Friday’s evacuation.

‘Wallpapering over the cracks’

Australian Institute of Building Surveyors chief executive Brett Mace said the serious issue is not specific to New South Wales.

“Or to this particular building, it is symptomatic of a much greater problem – a building regulatory system that is failing across Australia,” Mace said.

“The whole of Australia’s building regulations need urgent reform.

“The Opal Towers, the Mascot building, the Lacrosse apartments and the Neo apartments in Melbourne and the looming crisis with professional indemnity insurance that’s threatening to halt or considerably slow down the construction industry are just symptoms of this failure across the board.

“However, the problem seems to be too great for our political leaders to grasp and so far all we have seen is wallpapering over the cracks,” Mace said.

Mascot Towers
▲ Mascot Towers at 1-5 Bourke Road.

Timeline

  • Thursday: Mascot Tower residents received a notice from Strata Choice outlining that planned installation of temporary building propping to help fix “a slip joint defect” in the car park had been brought forward.
  • Friday: Mascot Tower residents received a second notice saying units would need to be evacuated that night by 9pm.
  • Saturday: 122-apartments and all but two ground-level shops were empty.
  • Sunday: Mascot Tower owners and residents told that three access zones would be made available for the next few days, escorted by the building manager by appointment from Monday enabling residents to collect personal items.

Sixty-four of the 122-apartments are in the partly accessible zone, residents have been told they can be “accessed for a short period of time”.

While residents are forbidden from re-entering the building, many look to be left out of pocket after being instructed to make alternative living arrangements in the mean time.

It’s also unlikely insurance companies will cover these losses.

The Mascot Towers, designed by architect Krikis Tayler and developed by John Elias, sit above the train station.

State transport confirmed there was no impact on the airport rail line or Mascot train station below the complex.

The Urban Developer contacted Mascot Towers’ building manager for comment.

Credit: The Urban Developer 17Jun19

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