Opal Tower investigation finds design issues, non-compliance

Opal Tower report structural design issues non-compliance

The report from the independent investigation into Opal Tower has confirmed that structural design and construction issues, including non-compliance with national codes and standards, were responsible for the damage observed in the building.

The report, prepared by Professors Mark Hoffman, John Carter and Stephen Foster, was released by the NSW Government.

“We were asked to consider the cause of the structural damage to the Opal Tower on Christmas Eve, possible remedial actions for repair and recommendations to avoid future similar problems with high-rise construction,” the Professors said in a statement.

“We found some of the as-constructed hob beams and panel assemblies were under-designed according to the National Construction Code and Australian Standards, leaving the beams prone to failure. We also found construction and material deficiencies likely contributed to the damage to the hob beams on levels four and ten.”

The investigation found that the building is overall structurally sound and that the localised damage to the building can be rectified to ensure the building is compliant with the National Construction Code.

“We agree in principle with the rectification works planned to date, noting that these have advanced considerably since our interim report was released,” Professors Hoffman, Carter and Foster said.

“However, we repeat our call for qualified structural engineers to check the final design and construction proposals in detail before major rectification works begin and before the building is deemed completely safe for occupancy, while noting the reoccupation of the building extends beyond the scope of our investigation and is a matter for residents and the builder.”

The Professors offered several recommendations focused on improving the system of independent review and monitoring in the structural design and construction of high-rise buildings.

The recommendations aim to make the system more public and transparent, and increase accountability by requiring registration of structural engineers and independent third-party checks of critical elements of the design during the construction of these types of buildings.

Another recommendation was to create a new Building Structure Review Board to establish and publish the facts relating to major structural damage of buildings arising from structural design and construction, to investigate their causes and to recommend regulatory changes as needed.

“It’s worth noting that this was a very rare occurrence and we are confident in the strength of the National Construction Code and Australian building standards in terms of building safety.”

Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, thanked the team for their work, which he said provided a clear and comprehensive response to the terms of reference.

“This has been a very tough time for residents and owners at Opal Tower and I first want to thank them for their patience and support in allowing the independent investigation team to prepare this detailed final report.

“I also want to thank Professors Hoffman, Carter and Foster for their significant efforts to complete this report in a timely and professional manner,” he said.

Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean, said the Government supports the direction of the report’s recommendations.

“Today’s recommendations are about ensuring qualified people design buildings and that buildings are built to those designs, and that’s the focus of our response to the Shergold Weir Report, which I took to the Building Minister’s Forum on February 8,” Mr Kean said.

“Professor Peter Shergold AO and Ms Bronwyn Weir investigated the whole building and construction industry around Australia over many months and their recommendations were very similar to those we received today.

“The biggest recommendation in today’s report is about registering engineers – and we’ve already committed to that.

Mr Kean said the NSW Government will go beyond accepting the vast majority Shergold Weir’s recommendations, by appointing a Building Commissioner and ensuring building practitioners owe a duty of care to homeowners.

“We will be working through the detail of today’s report with our new Building Commissioner to make sure that when homeowners are handed over the keys to a new building, it is safe, structurally sound and free from major defects.”

A full copy of the final report is available here.

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