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City Rd death trap

Australia 108’s towering complaints

07 Aug 2019

Australia 108’s towering complaints Image

By Meg Hill

Tenant complaints of cracking noises and disturbances in Australia 108 created a scare over the building’s structural integrity in July – with parallels drawn in the media to Sydney’s crumbling Opal towers.

But Geoff Hanmer, an adjunct lecturer in architectural structure and construction at UNSW and managing director of architect company ARINA, told Southbank Local News scrutiny should fall primarily on rushed residential processes.

Mr Hanmer said it was unusual for residents to be moved into a tower while it is still under construction, but especially at the heights currently occupied in Australia 108 – which will be the southern hemisphere’s tallest building once completed.

“I’m appalled by it,” he said.

“Occupancy shouldn’t be allowed while construction is still going on. I just don’t think it should be happening full stop. The government should say this is an unacceptable way of dealing with people in a residential situation.”

Residents have been occupying the tower, which won’t be finished until 2020, since mid-2018. They’ve complained of loud noise, construction defects, power outages and wall cracks.

Mr Hanmer said if a building’s financial model doesn’t allow for construction to be finished before moving tenants in, the building shouldn’t be approved.

“It does seem to me that it exposes the people in the building to all sorts of risks and impacts that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” he said.

“As a building is constructed it does move. It’s just unusual to have people in there. Really a building operation of that magnitude can’t help but spill in to the common spaces of the building below.”

Mr Hanmer said unacceptable levels of noise would be created by the concrete pumped through the centre of the building, among other things.

He also said problems with lifts, for example, would be a logical occurrence in these situations where the building is designed in separate sections with some operational and others not.

A resident told The Age power outages and lift malfunctioning was regular and that he was trapped in the downstairs foyer for five hours on one occasion.

Although it is unusual, other towers have been occupied at similar heights while still under construction, including Aurora Melbourne Central in the CBD and Eureka Tower here in Southbank.

But there doesn’t seem to be a similar level of dissatisfaction within these buildings. The City of Melbourne told Southbank Local News they had received only nine complaints in total regarding the Aurora development, with most relating to noise.

Australia 108 is being developed by World Class Global and built by Multiplex. A Multiplex spokesperson told Southbank Local News: “there is categorically no risk to the safety of occupants or the structural integrity of Australia 108, and we are doing all we can to assure residents of this”.

“The reported noises have occurred during the periods of extreme wind that Melbourne has experienced recently.”

“Like any building, Australia 108 has been designed to move in windy conditions and the noise being generated is indicative of the building adjusting to the prevailing weather conditions and behaving as it should.”

“While some of these noises cannot be completely eradicated, we do expect them to reduce once we complete the structure and are able to install damper tanks on top of the building, as per the engineers’ design.”

“Where minor defects such as hairline cracks are reported, which are typical of all new buildings, we have a system in place to address these directly with the residents with minimal impact on them.”

But part of the issue suggested by reports is a lack of forthright communication of the likely impediments of living in a tower that is still under construction. Residents who spoke to The Age said they were told they wouldn’t be inconvenienced by construction.

Australia 108 was approved under former Liberal planning minister Matthew Guy. It was dropped to 100 levels from the approved 108 after it was revealed it would breach the airspace of Essendon Airport.


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