Profit Drive Imperils Apartment Safety in Sydney

The report issued by the Engineers Australia Multi-disciplinary Committee, entitled Defect-Free Construction in NSW; How It Can Be Achieved, claims New South Wales is currently host to the worst building certification system in Australia, making the occurrence of a major fire in a high-rise apartment all but inevitable.

According to the report, 85 per cent of strata properties in NSW suffered from defects upon completion, and insurers in the state had seen repair costs rise by 27 per cent.

As bad as the situation is at present, engineer and report co-author Robert Hart said building safety problems in NSW were likely to worsen due to the throng of new apartments being rushed to market by inexperienced developers in a hurry to make a buck.

According to the report’s authors, as many as 20,000 new apartment units are expected to hit NSW in the next several years as developers from the Asia-Pacific pour money into the local market.

Major safety problems affecting apartment developments in Sydney include shoddy electrical installations, a lack of fire separation between apartments, and failure to properly install fire gaps or fire dampers that can serve to stymie the spread of smoke.

Consulting engineer Charles Rickard said the report served as proof that the building system in NSW had “broken down” as a result of an excessive focus on price at the expense of quality within the industry.

The report advocates the establishment of new regulatory bodies staffed by members of the various disciplines involved in the creation of residential buildings, including architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, fire engineers and acoustics experts.

Other recommendations of the report include the creation of a prescriptive certification system covering all aspects of a project, which is expected to raise consultation and construction fees while simultaneously reducing the costs borne by insurers.