A cloud is forming over what is set to become Australia’s second tallest building, with claims of loud cracking sounds and windows that no longer open.
The 319-metre Australia 108 building in Melbourne’s Southbank will boast more than 1000 apartments over 100 floors, but the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) confirmed to The New Daily it had visited the site on Thursday and requested to see building plans.
Industry leaders have told of reports the building, still under construction, has cracks in its plaster and has experienced movement.
The VBA did not disclose the specific reasons for its probe, but said that its investigation was ongoing.
Multiplex confirmed the VBA’s visit to The New Daily and conceded the building was suffering from “some minor defects”. But it denied that the the VBA had requested to see plans, and said the inspection was conducted at random.
“There are no structural issues with Australia 108. The building is still under construction and some slight movement is to be anticipated in certain circumstances,” a Multiplex spokesperson said.
“There is absolutely no risk to current residents. Some minor defects may occur from time to time after the handover of apartments.
“All residents have access to Multiplex’s onsite customer service team and our onsite service team has been working closely with the residents to rectify these items in a timely manner.”
Although it is yet to be completed, Australia 108 has been partially occupied since the second half of last year.
The penthouse of the skyscraper sold for $25 million in 2015 to a china-based businessman whose identity has not been disclosed.
Once completed, Australia 108 will be Melbourne’s tallest building.
Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer told the The New Daily the VBA’s interest in the building suggested the defects were of a serious nature.
“I’ve never known VBA to go to a site and request this sort of information – usually they’re a bit standoffish. So that would suggest to us there is something seriously wrong with this building,” Mr Dwyer said.
“It also confirms the talk that we’ve heard,” Mr Dwyer added, in reference to reports he had heard of cracks in the plaster, windows jamming shut, movement in the building, and the sounds of large cracking.
History repeating itself
Mr Dwyer said that the developers of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower initially described its defects as “minor”, before further investigation linked the defects to problems with the building’s structure.
“Exactly the same words and sentences were used with the Opal apartments. ‘Minor defects’, yeah, of course, and then we find out that it’s seriously structural,” he said.
“Buildings will have defects – that can be the norm. But generally it’s defects like the painter hasn’t finished his job properly – they’re minor defects.
“But we’ve heard in terms of this building that windows are jammed closed. That suggests that there’s movement in the building, because windows don’t jam closed in a concrete structure.”
Mr Dwyer said he had also been told residents had heard loud cracking sounds within the building, during evenings and weekends when construction was not taking place.
“Let’s hope it’s not serious, but it’s presenting as fairly serious at the moment,” he added.
When The New Daily visited the site, a steady stream of SUVs and people were coming in and out of the building, which is surrounded by Multiplex construction boards and a handful of competing real estate agencies and apartment showrooms.
The New Daily spoke to the building’s concierge, but he refused to provide comment, on instruction from the building manager.
Public fears growing
The revelations come amid a public outcry over shoddy workmanship in the construction industry, after the high-profile evacuations of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower, Zetland’s Garland Lofts, and the Mascot Towers on Bourke Street led to heightened scrutiny into construction standards.
State, territory and federal building ministers agreed to beef up the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and adopt a “nationally-consistent approach” to implementing recommendations in the watershed Shergold-Weir report at an emergency meeting held earlier this month.
Geoff Hanmer, adjunct lecturer in architecture at the University of New South Wales, said their promises missed the point.
“What we need now is concerted and urgent action to stop defective buildings being built and a plan to help residential apartment owners rectify their buildings,” he wrote in The Conversation.
“Meanwhile, the [Building Ministers’ Forum] and the ABCB are still fiddling while Rome burns. They need to get on with it.”