'Cracked' Opal Tower: Angry residents demand answers as builder denies 'rush job'

Residents are demanding answers after being told to leave the Opal Tower for up to 10 days - the second evacuation in a week.



Frustrated residents of Sydney's Opal Tower have demanded answers after they were evacuated for the second time in four days over the building's structural instability.

Three thousand people were evacuated from the surrounding area on Christmas Eve after residents reported "cracking" noises on the tenth floor of the building. 

The damaged section on the tenth floor.

Engineers initially assessing the site said it appeared the building had shifted up to 2 millimetres, but gave the green light to allow residents to return to the Tower hours later. 

Fifty-one units however were declared unsafe and off-limits. 

"Can we have some fair treatment in the end?" one resident said, confronting representatives of the engineering and building team on Thursday afternoon.

Residents are being relocated over the next 24 hours as part of a "precautionary measure", with the developer Ecove saying the move would allow engineers to more speedily carry out their investigation over 10 days as opposed to months, if residents remained on-site.

Residents demand answers after being told to leave the building for the second time this week.

The frustrated resident peppered building company Icon director Julian Doyle with several questions, saying she is not satisfied with the level of communication and how the issue is being handled.

"All of us with pets, we have valuable things in our apartment. You ask to move all the valuable things with us. It's impossible.

"And nobody is going to be responsible for anything that goes missing in our apartment or give any compensation.

"You asked us to move back in and now you ask us to evacuate again. So 10 days is just an estimation. So how long should we wait for the final results."

'Not a rush job'

Mr Doyle insisted the construction of Opal Tower was not a "rush job". 

"No, this was not a rushed job," he said at a press conference outside the Tower. "I have no concerns about other buildings."

He said he did not think his company's reputation would suffer: "I think we will continue to be the reputable builder that we are". 

But he said no guarantees could be made that residents would be back in the building within 10 days. 


Icon director Julian Doyle answers questions from residents and journalists.
Icon director Julian Doyle answers questions from residents and journalists.

"No, I can't guarantee that residents will be back in 10 days. But the investigation will be complete and there will be a solution."

The engineering company for builders Icon, WSP, said all efforts are being made to get at the "root" of the issue. 

"The reasons for the failure are unknown that is why we need to do the investigation," said Guy Templeton, president and CEO of global engineering firm WSP's Australia and New Zealand division.  

Mr Templeton said there was never any risk that the building would have collapsed, saying the building is now "structurally sound" with concrete reinforcements installed on the damaged wall on the tenth floor. 

Precautionary measure'

"Accommodation is being secured for all affected residents at nearby hotels and compensation will also be provided by Icon," Ecove said in a statement.

"Residents are being briefed by Icon at a meeting today at the local community centre."

The developer insisted the relocation is temporary and is being taken as a "precautionary measure".

"Icon confirms the building is structurally sound and the temporary relocation is a precautionary measure to allow engineers to work around the clock to investigate and remediate the site in the quickest time possible, without further disruption to residents."

Residents have been warned the relocation could run for as long as 10 days as engineers investigate the now reinforced section of the building that had been damaged. 

Global engineering firm WSP is leading the invesigation with help from majority owner of Icon, Kajima Corporation, one of Japan’s largest construction companies.

Two engineering professors to head investigation

On Thursday Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts appointed specialist investigators to conduct an inquiry into the matter.

Two professors of engineering will lead an investigation into the cause of the failure and will report on immediate steps to be taken to ensure the safety of the building for residents.

The report, which will be made public once complete, will also include recommendations on how to avoid similar incidents in the future.

"I've been in contact with the developer and the builder in the last 24 hours and have stressed to them my expectation that these residents are looked after," Mr Roberts said.

Developer insists no 'cut corners'

The building's developer Ecove insisted it was "pushing as hard as everyone else" to find out what went wrong.

The company's director Bassam Aflak, in a statement on Thursday, refuted suggestions there was a pattern of substandard work in the construction industry.

"The city's 'development boom' has not led to cutting of corners. There has been no cutting of corners," he said.

Mr Aflak said it appeared there was "one failed panel" but engineers were still working "flat out" to find the root problem.

"The requirement from the Sydney Olympic Park Authority was that the building be high quality, and we have delivered on that," he said.

"While this incident suggests otherwise, the contract with Icon specified that the building be of high quality Australian design and construction."

NSW Labor leader Michael Daley said he wants to know someone is looking after the displaced residents and called for the cause of the problems to be made public.

He said it was "not acceptable" that units were still closed in the four-month-old building.

- with AAP

Source SBS News