CHOICE membership

Building Oversight Failures


Usually through research, development, prototyping and testing through a research partner or a technical institution (CSIRO/Universities etc). It can be expensive to carry out, but the rewards can be enormous.

An example is one like this:


Would that be somewhat like the battery testing for the original 787 fleet? I have to assume that was as rigorous as it gets, having been in a few meetings with the then chief engineer at Boeing a few decades earlier. Perhaps even aviation standards have been reduced since then, ever trusting the accuracy and slim safety margins enabled by computer simulation and analysis.

However I understand your point, we just disagree a bit on private always being better than public and our reasons for same. I think we both made our points so rather than an ongoing to and fro perhaps leaving it until the next report of owners getting done over.


The twist here with a focus on the certifiers is that they are only one of many links in the chain.

Another question is whether the system is broken and needs broader changes than just that single point.

The aircraft industry is one place to look at how engineering, risk and regulation are managed. As @TheBBG notes with the Boeing 767 battery fires they can still get it wrong. Governments (overseas NTSB and local CASA) take a very direct interest in the industry providing safe outcomes.

Closer to home the Australian Mining Industry manages some very high risk environments and constructed plant/equipment. This is under the watchful gaze of numerous parties including the government. It seems to be necessary and successful mostly.

If it was a NSW government owned motorway tunnel or bridge that collapsed what would the NSW government say? It’s unrealistic to suggest that the NSW government relies solely on a certifier employed by the Principal Contractor to ensure serious failures do not come to pass?

The suggestions by the Premier that it is not for the Government to be involved in certain matters relating to the Opal Tower suggests users of certain tunnels and motorway bridges in urban Sydney need to also ask about the risks of using them on a daily basis? Not sure if there is a double standard here?

A good guess is that like aircraft industry failures the circumstances of the Opal Tower failure have multiple factors. There will likely be more more than one action needed and it will extend beyond the role of the Certifier in the project.



The following statement from the investigating Engineers per the ABC report:

“We can say from our initial assessment there is no evidence of any issues with the foundations of the building, though we believe that there are a number of design and construction issues that require further investigation,” they said in a statement.

This article reports from the same briefing as the article. It’s from the same source.
Per Nine:
Sydney’s Opal Tower ‘riddled with Issues’, experts warn

In a statement issued by the planning minister’s office, Professors Mark Hoffman and John Carter yesterday said they had identified issues that would require further investigation.

The preliminary investigation found no evidence of any issues with the foundations of the building.

One report headline is factual, is not misleading, is not speculative and does not invent an assessment.

The future of the owners of the Opal Tower is a serious convern, and there may be indeed a very serious issue or more than one with the building.

Given each report and headline which one best aligns with Choice values?


The nightmare for the residents continues.


Some very challenging concerns for any owner or resident are presented in the updated independent review on the Opal Appartment building damage.

Can any owner be assured that similar issues do not exist elsewhere in the building?

Per the previously linked ABC News Report, the designer WSP has indicated it is ‘appropriate’ for many residents to return to their apartments.

Is there something unique or different about the design of the section that has failed? It may be that is correct, however it is not clear from the ABC report content why WSP’s advice should be relied upon? Even the responsible State Minister has declined to provide a recommendation!

The interim independent report to the NSW Govt is also a reliable source.

Two of the key points in the executive summary of the report state:

3. The viability of residents re-entering the building extends beyond the structural issues considered here and hence beyond the scope of this investigation. Nevertheless, notwithstanding point 1 above, before residents re-occupy the building the designers must ensure that no structural member is overloaded as a result of any load redistribution likely to have occurred as a consequence of the observed damage to the structure of the building.

5. Further analysis should be undertaken on the structural design of the hob beams and associated structural members with similar details and consideration should be given to strengthening them wherever they occur throughout the building.

What do you think this is saying?


That the flat owners are screwed and it is their problem to seek and pay for legal advice to go after whomever can be held responsible. That aspect will probably be harder than expected as the architect, builder, and certifier all go with ‘it is not us’.

The NSW government also seems to have squibbed in addressing their approach to building inspections by adding a bit of window dressing rather than reforming it into a functional governmental oversight where there is clear responsibility.

Stop gaps, reinforcements and so on whether efficacious or not will always make the building suspect so the only decent answer could be to buy back the flats and tear it down. I will not hold my breath for that. What was a $600K flat will forever be valued cheap as chips.

A worrisome aspect is the silence from the other states with equally questionable laws delegating developers/builders to essentially certify their own work.


All too true for the moment.
Perhaps also considering that the combustible cladding fire risks have been shown to be wide spread and non compliant?

The good old ABC is playing catch-up and has taken what appears to be a more direct interest in the content of the interim independent report this morning.

From this update:

On level 10 the team found a number of points where the construction differed from the design or industry standards.

It found a lack “grout coverage” led to an “eccentric bearing load” on the hob beam on level 10 (a hob beam sits on the edge of a slab of concrete or pillar, sometimes resembling the kerb on a road). They also questioned the location of reinforcing steel, a cut or incomplete steel bar in the area and overhanging precast panels.

“There is compelling evidence indicating that the wrong size reinforcing bars were placed in this area during manufacture of this particular panel – 20mm diameter bars were used instead of 28mm diameter bars,” the report found.

Assuming it is reliable that errors in construction as suggested have been missed, it is going to be difficult to convince any buyer the records relating to the construction of any part of the building can be relied upon. Even if the records say the works are compliant!


Way back in the 1960’s, the then Qld Government created the Northern Electric Authority of Queensland, NEAQ, to takeover and administer the generation and high voltage distribution network assets of the electricity boards in North Qld who were then left with the distribution and retail of electricity, as they also did in Southern Qld with the formation of the Southern Electricity Authority of Queensland, SEAQ, both of which were controlled by the State Electricity Commission, SEC.

The NEAQ grid was originally controlled from the System Control Centre located on the upper level of a three-storey building in Garbutt, Townsville, beside the main sub-station switchyard for North Qld, which would have been transferred to NEAQ from the local electricity board.

The ground level was assigned for the maintenance of the high voltage switchyard assets, and the mezzanine floor, which had been assigned to the communication department, had a number of signs posted throughout the floor warning that the maximum floor load limit was “20 lb per square foot.”

The building, especially the mezzanine floor, had obviously been the victim of some sub-standard building practices.

Towards the end of the decade, NEAQ had their new HQ, including the new System Control Centre, constructed adjacent to the existing control centre building, which was a two-storey concrete structure with a suspended slab upper-storey floor.

When the installation of all the control, supervisory, and communications systems in the new System Control Centre was almost complete, a test of the suspended slab floor of the room revealed that the floor was of an unacceptable standard, as insufficient cement powder had been used in the concrete.

All of the control. supervisory and communications cabinets had to be sealed in heavy duty plastic so as to be dust proof whilst the floor had to be rectified to the specified standard.

I have no idea of what the rectification cost, but together with liquidated damages, it would have been an eyewatering amount.

Back in those days, Government organisations held a retention from the total of contracts for 12 months so as to ensure any problems would be rectified or they could use the retained funds to facilitate repairs.

Of course, these days shonky construction businesses simply send their existing companies into liquidation and start up again under a new name.


The questions around how the industry is regulated are expanded on by this ABC report that suggests wide spread concern given the frequency of post construction issues faced by owners and bodies corporate of high rise and property developments.

As noted by @Fred123 construction contracts outside the residential developments typically have defects liability provisions in favour of the owner. After all if you are a state government department, RIO or BHP and you are going to use or depend on an asset as part of your profit making business for the next 25 years, you do not want it to fall down or fail to perform to requirements. Companies making major investments in physical assets also put significant effort into assuring the outcomes paid for are delivered. For the owner of these assets whether buildings, structures or major plant and equipment there are ongoing obligations under state level occupational and safety legislation, both financial and individually.

Contrast the building and construction industry where the developer and builders operate in a different environment and where the financial and personal liabilities appear to be far more limited. Future owners and investors rarely have any direct relationship with the builders and developers.

The systems that provide assurance and the effectiveness of these systems are directed by state government legislation.

The defects and liability provisions are also limited by legislation. They rely primarily on the Body Corporate once constituted and the appointed BC Manager to seek a response to any defects or concerns. It can be a difficult process subject to legal action, assuming the original developer and builder are still accessible (IE still in business).

Any potential purchaser of a property subject to a group title should ensure they access a full copy of the Body Corporate record prior to completing a contract to purchase. If only to identify any potential issues and liabilities that are known at the time or have occurred previously.

For those of us purchasing in a brand new development and those buying off the plan there is little to rely upon other than the effectiveness of the applicable state building and construction legislation applicable to the building works.

With an industry currently facing down turn will the building and construction industry adopt an unfortunately one bad egg nothing else to see here attitude? Will the state governments variously maneuver to suggest their legislation is working, and then offer little tweaks to demonstrate care and they are doing something?

It’s not currently apparent if the systems and legislation are adequate in protecting the safety of occupants and the long term financial investments of the owners. Property insurance may not cover key building structural defects or risks?

There may be a temptation for a quick fix and to move on.

If there is to be any future and meaningful independent industry wide inquiry or commission it needs to cross the boundaries of the legislative and political divides of every state and territory?

Perhaps not the traditional ‘flying pig’ analogy, but closer in reality to the likelihood of the story of a circus and flying elephant.


One more warning, that the problem with combustible cladding has not been addressed.

From the final paragraph concerning in particular the fire on the NEO building.

Residents won’t be able to return to Neo200 until Wednesday …

The VBA, City of Melbourne and MFB assessed the building in 2015 and found the cladding was dangerous.

Council issued a building notice and order notice to have risks addressed.

More than three years on and no action!

Government statements that they will not release a list of all buildings that have dangerous cladding and increased fire safety risks is also more than lame.

Anyone renting or working or owning part of any at risk building - perhaps even visiting should be made aware of the increased level of risk.

Perhaps a sign at the front door of every such affected property.

Our governments ensure we have safety warning signs about many of the hazards around us. But not this one. :rage:


It appears wilfully building badly is on, too. Could be ‘fake news’ but…


Not exactly building oversight, but construction. Self regulation (CAL) wringing its hands bleating ‘not on us’ - CAL seems a classic example. It is not just consumers who get burnt.


George Orwell might love it. Opal Tower was built with substandard bits and did not meet standards, but remains structurally sound so no worries it can be fixed. Is that the final ‘bad boy’ admonishment? The residents must be partying in their hallways celebrating their ‘quality’ investments while the company and those responsible essentially walk.

Nope, could not be anything wrong with self regulation and certification in building. If this happens with such a large project imagine the ‘quality’ that might go into an individual home. Yet how many pollies are on to this as a real issue rather than a window dressing issue?


I saw this way back when and thought it one of the great truths:

Every day, in so many ways, the truth of that is borne out.


And you thought we had dodgy builders in Australia.



The process is ‘so sad, too bad’ when common sense duty is abdicated. Fall back on the lack of mandatory rules in force at the time. Councils that create or enable such ridiculous development should be enabled to and held liable to purchase and demolish the newer of the buildings. The problem in law would be defining what that means, so on it goes with lightly, lightly, caveat emptor cannot offend a developer, if we do VCAT will overrule us anyway mentality that seems pervasive (and often too accurate).

One conclusion is to never buy into a property where there is an empty adjoining lot!


Wow, this is a long thread with lots of issues over home construction faults.
I have long thought that home buyers have less protection rights than someone buying a kettle or toaster. Just think of the consumer laws that allows a faulty kettle or toaster to be returned to the store and have it replaced or get a refund. Also, think of the paperwork you get with that new kettle or toaster. We have been using these things for decades, but there are always step by step instructions and safety warnings, and in multiple languages!
However, when someone buys a house, whether new or established, it is ‘caveat emptor’ - you are on your own. If there is any sort of defect it is often difficult to get it fixed, once you own the property all the problems are yours!
While a new house will have certain warrantees, they are limited in what they will do. With the toaster and kettle you have a recourse if it is a dud, but what happens with a house? When have you ever heard of a builder being forced to fully refund a home buyer because of the number of defects?

While I have used the term ‘house’, my comments equally apply to apartments - what recourse do the owners of the apartments of Opal Towers have? Well, not a lot! They should be able to not just receive a full refund of their cost to buy the apartment (even if it was from and ‘agent’), but also ‘damages’ for their dislocation and the need to relocate. This should apply for renters as well.

And the responsibility should go straight to ‘Builder’ company owners; and they should not be able to dodge responsibility by winding up their company, going broke etc!! Actually, anyone contributing to the construction should be held accountable, including State authorities and certifiers!!


An article regarding the absolutely disgraceful conduct of the Victorian Building Authority in relation to demands over cladding removal.

So after the state government allowed these buildings to be constructed, they are prepared to rip off the unfortunate residents instead of the material manufacturers, the builders and/or themselves paying for the work.

What a bunch of grubs.