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Industry insiders are stunned that giant cracks could appear at Opal Tower

Top architects are ‘bewildered’ as to how cracks formed in the wall of a brand new tower block, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 people.

Hundreds were moved out of the 38-storey Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park on Monday along with thousands more from nearby buildings.

Residents said they heard loud cracks coming from the 10th floor through the morning and raised the alarm about 2.45pm.

Some Opal Tower residents were allowed to return home just after midnight on Christmas Eve

A shocking photo from inside the building showed a plaster wall collapsed in a heap and a crack down the length of the wall. Yellow tape was on the door handle

A shocking photo from inside the building showed a plaster wall collapsed in a heap and a crack down the length of the wall. Yellow tape was on the door handle

Firefighters and public works engineers found a large crack along an internal support wall after the building moved one to two millimetres.

A shocking photo from inside the building showed a plaster wall collapsed in a heap and a crack down the length of the wall. Yellow tape was on the door handle. 

Some residents said the doors to the building were jammed and police had to break them down with heavy equipment to help residents escape. 

The cause of the fault in the building, which was completed in March and opened in August, was still unknown, as planning experts slammed the developer.

Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said the cracks were ‘staggering’, given the building was essentially brand new.

‘It’s a bit bewildering to me that something like this could happen. Buildings like that go through all sorts of checks and balances,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

A notice placed on the door of one of the 51 units deemed unsafe by public works engineers

A notice placed on the door of one of the 51 units deemed unsafe by public works engineers

Affected Opal Tower residents were escorted by emergency services to their unsafe units to collect their possessions before relocating to alternative accommodation

Affected Opal Tower residents were escorted by emergency services to their unsafe units to collect their possessions before relocating to alternative accommodation

 They were forced to leave amidst fears the 34-storey high-rise building could collapse

 They were forced to leave amidst fears the 34-storey high-rise building could collapse

Mr Johnson said the problem would either be a ‘fundamental error’ in how the building was constructed, or the ground it was built on.

‘The only other option is that something underneath the building has changed. That could well create tensions through the structure itself,’ he said.

Opal Tower was build on reclaimed land that used to be a swamp and is less than 300m from another mangrove swamp.

The crisis prompted the NSW Government to urgently investigate ‘what steps were taken to ensure the structural integrity of that building and other buildings at Olympic Park’.

A spokesman for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said he was ‘very concerned about the situation with the Opal Tower’. 

‘Obviously his first concern is the safety of the residents,’ he said.

‘He wants to assure the affected residents that this matter is being treated with extreme urgency.’ 

Residents were left to sleep on the concrete ground in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society

Residents were left to sleep on the concrete ground in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society

 Many claimed they were left in the dark, having received no information from emergency crews about when they might be able to return home

 Many claimed they were left in the dark, having received no information from emergency crews about when they might be able to return home

People sat on what few chairs were available and if they were lucky, used a table to eat or play cards on Christmas Eve night

People sat on what few chairs were available and if they were lucky, used a table to eat or play cards on Christmas Eve night

A structural engineer who said he worked as a site inspector during Sydney’s building boom in 2015-16 pointed the finger at dodgy business practices.

‘I regularly saw poor planning, poor execution, poor workmanship during my limited site inspections, and that’s only the parts I was looking at,’ he wrote on social media. 

‘Several of the projects I’ve worked on required remedial action during construction due to poor planning and workmanship.’

He listed six common problems that stemmed from poor communication during design revisions, corner cutting, and too much time pressure.

The engineer also questioned the propagation of private certifying companies that sign off on projects without public input.

‘This whole industry with the private certifying authorities, councils getting kickbacks for developments, it’s a mess,’ he wrote.

‘I can say there is no one working on any construction project in the residential space that is independent. 

Residents of the impacted units were escorted back to gather their belongings

Residents of the impacted units were escorted back to gather their belongings

Hundreds of residents mill around after they were evacuated from Opal Tower and buildings around it

Hundreds of residents mill around after they were evacuated from Opal Tower and buildings around it

Firefighters carry specialist equipment inside the tower as they assessed the damage

Firefighters carry specialist equipment inside the tower as they assessed the damage

Opal Tower is only months old 

The 117m Opal tower has 392 apartments over 34 storeys along with a childcare centre and other businesses and amenities.

Brand new high rise was built alongside numerous other similar blocks in Olympic Park as it transforms into a major population centre.

The building was only completed in March and opened in August, and cost $165 million to build by developer Ecove, which built many of the others nearby.

Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000.  

‘Everyone has a vested interest in seeing this thing get built in the quickest way possible. It’s frankly disgusting.’

However, he believed the issue with Opal Tower was likely not serious – though there could be bigger problems appearing in years to come.

‘I think what’s happened is that there are structural elements which haven’t been grouted or only partially grouted,’ he said.

‘The building’s not going to fall over because of it but it’s not what you would consider serviceable.’

Opal Tower was approved by the Planning Department as a ‘state significant development’ in 2015 and certified by a private certifier.

‘The private certifier has the original occupation certificate and all related structural, electrical, hydraulic certificates issued by engaged engineers,’ Parramatta City Council said. 

Some residents made alternative living arrangements after 51 units were declared unsafe

Some residents made alternative living arrangements after 51 units were declared unsafe

 About 100 people were stranded in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society building as they waited for the all clear from authorities

 About 100 people were stranded in a temporary shelter at the nearby Royal Agricultural Society building as they waited for the all clear from authorities

Firefighter search and rescue teams and public works engineer  assessed the 34-storey building after a huge crack was found in its structure

Firefighter search and rescue teams and public works engineer  assessed the 34-storey building after a huge crack was found in its structure

Most residents were allowed to return to their homes after 12.30am on Tuesday but 51 of the 392 units were still deemed unsafe.

NSW Fire Service Superintendent Adam Dewberry said those apartments would be off limits for days to come, but didn’t know how long.

‘It’s not as if it’s going to be tomorrow or the next day because there needs to be an element of work done,’ he said.

‘Now it’s just how quickly that work can be done by the engineers to get in and get a really good thorough assessment.’

The 117m tower was evacuated after some residents fled about 2.45pm after hearing a cracking noise and a huge crack opened up. 

The operator of the nearby Botania tower also told its residents in an email: ‘There is a potential for the tower to collapse, a 1km radius has been evacuated’. 

Police said an emergency services operation was underway after concerns were raised for the structural integrity of the 34-storey Opal Tower (pictured) at Sydney Olympic Park

Police said an emergency services operation was underway after concerns were raised for the structural integrity of the 34-storey Opal Tower (pictured) at Sydney Olympic Park

The park many residents were forced out into until they were herded to the crisis centre

The park many residents were forced out into until they were herded to the crisis centre

Opal Tower is one of several new apartment towers in Olympic Park and cost $165 million to build.

It was developed by Ecove, which also built many other new towers in the suburb along with One30 Hyde Park tower in the Sydney CBD.

Two-bedroom apartments are on sale for $934,000 and one bedrooms for $620,000. 

‘We are deeply sympathetic for the concern and anxiety of residents and owners and are actively following up the builder and the builder’s engineers to hopefully provide residents and owners with further information,’ Ecove said.

The tower was designed by architecture firm Bates Smart and built by Icon Construction. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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