How to avoid or fix a faulty build

05/08/2019
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Do you know there is a new-building defects crisis unfolding in Sydney? As the Sydney Morning Herald reported, it just might be “the tip of the iceberg”, with new developments all over Australia severely compromised.

What’s the cause of all this?

According to many reporters on the matter, it comes down to what has been coined a “greed & speed” mentality by developers and builders sparked by the apartment boom. In this article, we will delve further into these building defects and what you can do to ensure you don’t become an unwitting victim.

It all began last Christmas Eve with the emergency evacuation of residents from the Opal Towers at Homebush. Then NSW planning minister Anthony Roberts blamed the building defects on “construction and material deficiencies.” This was soon followed by the Mascot Towers crisis. Since then, there have been more reports of residential building defects.

In November 2018, the occupants of an inner Sydney apartment building were evacuated after water and fire safety defects were uncovered. The complex at 19 Gadigal Ave in Zetland remains abandoned eight months later, with extensive and severe water damage reported.

Then, in February 2019, the cladding fire at the Neo200 Tower in Melbourne sparked fears of a similar tragedy to London’s Grenfell Tower. And finally, the latest, and still-in-construction Melbourne Australia 108 Tower has residents already complaining of cracking sounds, fearing for their safety. It seems strict regulation of the industry is in order. That, and some quality remedial builders to the rescue! But first, let’s see how it all went so wrong.

The greed & speed of the apartment boom

You’ve probably heard it said before, “They don’t build them like they use to”. Well, they certainly don’t. But that’s no excuse for the sub-par building standards happening across Sydney, and potentially around Australia.

In the past five years alone, more than 114,000 apartments were built in Sydney. Government forecasts predict over 140,000 extra flats in the next five years. Already, roughly 30 per cent of Sydneysiders are apartment-dwellers. Furthermore, that proportion is set to keep rising with the population boom showing no signs of slowing down. And with Melbourne’s population growing at a faster rate, expect more of the same south of the border (and around the country for that matter).

The Australian dream of owning your own home in suburbia with a backyard and pool is shifting towards inner-city apartment living. The fact is, urban areas generate more money for the economy than any other region in Australia. High-density areas provide more significant opportunities for work, lifestyle and income. As a result, these areas also attract high-rise apartment living.

This high-demand for new apartment blocks has provided builders and developers with an abundance of work opportunities. Tradesmen have been spoilt with work opportunities and are thus cashing in. The demand is so high that there’s even a shortage of qualified plumbers and electricians, among other trades.

It’s great that tradesmen are busy with work. The downside is the lure of rushing construction projects and cutting corners to improve profit margins and make more money. But not so great for the homeowners and tenants of such new dwellings.

However, we can’t just blame the overpaid, cashed-up builders and tradesmen. For 20 years the supply-and-demand-club have been at it. Councils, licensing bodies, surveyors, urban taskforces, developers, builders, and State and Federal Government have all been demanding deregulation to supply more affordable housing. Well, we got cheaper housing all right. So much so, that first-time homeowners are going bankrupt because they can’t afford remedial builders for the concrete repair work required.

What’s the damage?

Building defects can occur to either new buildings or old ones. Defects within new buildings are likely the result of non-compliance with the Australian Building Code and Standards. Much of the reported building defects most likely come down to sub-par concrete work. If the residents hear or see cracking, then structural defects resulting in concrete cracks are the likely issue. These cracks can result in the buildings’ collapse. Hence, the seriousness of the crisis and the need for evacuations.

What makes the concrete crack?

Cracking concrete occurs for several reasons. It could be due to:

– The rate and amount of recently poured new concrete, and the drying time needed.

– Exposure to the elements while drying.

– Level of weight/tension placed on or within the concrete.

– The elasticity levels of the concrete.

If cracking concrete is left untreated, it can lead to extensive damage to the structural integrity of the building. Breaking concrete is more superficial looking than concrete cancer in regards to the level of damage.

Whereas cracking concrete can be the result of the hardening process, poor waterproofing is often the cause of concrete cancer. Water ingress results in the rusting and corroding of the reinforcing steel within the concrete structure.

Concrete cancer often has visible chunks missing, heavy corrosion and concrete breaking off or signs of water ingress. Cracking concrete, on the other hand, usually has various cracks but no corrosion has occurred yet.

Perhaps the only positive to come out of these building defect cases is highlighting the importance of hiring remedial builders to prevent it from happening in the first place. While initially brought in after the problem has occurred to assess the situation and fix it, nowadays, remedial builders are consulting on new builds before the problem can occur.

What is remedial building?

Remedial building refers to the specific type of work to rectify and correct buildings with defects, usually with significant structural, concrete and water damage issues. More often than not, concrete repair work is required.

Proper concrete repair work for the structural issues is of paramount importance, as the structural integrity and stability of the building may be compromised and deteriorating. This can potentially result in the collapse of the structure. You can see why residents from the buildings in the cases mentioned above were evacuated, and not allowed to return until remedial builders rectify all problems.

Highly skilled remedial builders provide effective long-term solutions and rectification of sub-par construction problems, to prevent further cracking or water damage to the structure and ensure the safety of its residents.

After the recent spate of building defects across Sydney, one Sydney remedial builders group has its work cut out. Murphy’s Remedial Builders has traditionally worked to restore old heritage buildings around Sydney but now finds itself working more and more on new projects.

Over their 28-year history, they’ve restored some of the oldest buildings in Australia, and even 300-year-old buildings in England. As such, their experience and expertise in the field of remedial building are second to none. It’s no surprise they’ve become the go-to guys for concrete repair work for the “greed & speed” culture behind the apartment crisis.

Murphy’s Remedial Builders know when it comes to concrete remediation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As such, they assess each situation individually to identify the correct approach for repair. They understand what works for one issue may not necessarily work for another.

With consistent reports of concrete cracking in new apartment buildings, Murphy’s are relied upon as experts in assessing and fixing all concrete surfaces. Their experienced staff are trained in all kinds of concrete crack repair methods to meet the requirements of dry and wet conditions, as well as non-structural and structural needs.

Some of these special repair methods include:

• The subsurface repair method – this is used for deep cracking, which could be the result of overloading, a design fault, or corrosion-induced cracking.
• The below crack repair method
• The polyurethane injection method – a great repair choice for areas which require waterproofing, mainly where cracks are non-structural but flexibility is critical.
• Surface repairs – this involves fixing fine cracks.
• An epoxy injection – this is used for structural repairs in existing designs.
• Other repair methods, including pour-in epoxy grouts, ultrafine cementitious injections, and cementitious epoxy trowel repairs.

But is there a way to prevent the building defects from happening in the first place?

Absolutely. Concrete structural strengthening from the get-go. Murphy’s are also sought after for new projects to assess and, if necessary, improve the strength of a building’s concrete structure.

Concrete structural strengthening focuses on improving the structure of a new or existing construction to increase the strength of the fundamental component to bear further loads and boost its current performance.

Just some of the reasons for needing extra strengthening include a change to the building code, a change in use, seismic conditions or structural defects. In these recent cases, structural defects are the issue at hand.

As stated on their website, some of Murphy’s strengthening capabilities include:

• Externally bonded reinforced polymer products
• Thin laminates, which increase a structure’s load-bearing capabilities

So, as you can see in this time of the shoddy apartment building boom crisis, the need for remedial builders is of paramount importance. Not only for fixing building defects and concrete repair work but for preventing it from happening in the first place.

If you’re concerned about cracking noises coming from your apartment block, for your own safety and peace of mind, get in touch with a quality remedial builder like Murphy’s. After all, that crack isn’t getting any smaller… just like the number of new sub-par apartment buildings propping up across our country.

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