Monthly Archives: December 2016

Garage wall collapses onto edge of notorious Mount Waverley excavation pit

The site in Highbury Road, Mount Waverley on Thursday. Photo: Jason South

A garage wall on a townhouse in Mount Waverley next to a notorious excavation pit has fallen down.

Nobody was injured in the incident, which affected a townhouse that has not been occupied since a landslip occurred in the excavation pit in July 2015.

In a written statement on Thursday, the City of Monash confirmed the wall had fallen.

Photos taken at the site of the pit in Highbury Road on Thursday show what appears to be debris from the wall on the pit’s edge.

“Props (poles) to secure the townhouse structure remain in place and appear not to have shifted,” the council said.

“Council has issued a 24 hour Emergency Order to the owner of the townhouse to have the props inspected and verified as safe as a precaution. Council has also informed the land owner’s insurer that an Emergency Order has been issued.

“Council will continue to work with the property owner and his insurer to ensure the townhouse is safe,” the council said.

In July 2015, Jim Nicolaou​ of Action Master Builders was forced to fill the crumbling construction pit after the 15-metre-deep hole he was digging collapsed following heavy rainfall. The backfill job reportedly required about 1700 truckloads of dirt to be dumped on the site.

Mr Nicolaou has reportedly applied for permission to build an apartment block, childcare centre and medical suite on the site.

Last month Mr Nicolaou told The Age that the townhouses that had teetered on the edge of his site were not damaged, and did not need to be sitting vacant.

Mould and fungus push residents out of uninhabitable apartments

An infestation of black mould in one of the apartments. Photo: Supplied

These are the Melbourne buildings that experts say are “too dangerous” to occupy.

In some instances the problems are so severe residents have been forced to abandon their homes, in others hundreds of people continue to live in apartments that have serious health and fire concerns.


Urgent action needed to tackle faulty new apartments and houses

The rush to build new homes has raised concerns about the cutting of corners to save costs. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Melbourne’s surging population in recent years has had a number of ramifications. The impact is being felt on the transport and health systems, and the transformation of the city skyline through at times short-sighted development. Much of this has been well documented, though not resolved. Less understood is the damage being done in the rush to build new homes to house the city’s new residents.

As The Age has revealed, there are serious concerns about the quality of buildings that have been going up in parts of the city this century. Experts warn that the cutting of corners to lower costs, including the use of substandard materials and poor workmanship by unqualified builders, means people are increasingly living in homes that are at best faulty, at worst dangerous.

Some have compared the risk to that faced by previous generations due to asbestos. This is perhaps over-inflated language, but experts cite evidence of significant problems: structural failures and a growing scourge known as “leaky building syndrome” causing mould so bad that some houses have become uninhabitable. There are also warnings of major fire safety risks due to the use of combustible cladding.

Already, there are reports that houses built in the past 10 to 15 years have been demolished because of substandard builds in several suburbs across Melbourne, including Reservoir in the north, Balwyn North in the east, Caulfield in the south-east and Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula.

More than 20 houses with polystyrene cladding – foam, effectively – are said to have been bulldozed after water leaked through broken cladding and rotted structural timbers.

The victims are real. The Age spoke with several residents who traded in long-standing family homes for cheaply constructed units that are now water damaged. There are fears they will have lost significant parts of their life savings on buildings that cannot be sold.

In the case of apartments, building law specialist Tim Graham says some are likely to be so badly built that it would make more sense to knock the buildings down, sell the land to a developer and start again.

The Victorian Building Authority investigation in the wake of the 2014 Lacrosse tower fire in Docklands found that a majority of Melbourne’s newest high rises were wrapped in cladding that had not been properly installed. In the case of the Lacrosse fire, it was combustible.

The investigation led to changes – the introduction of injunction powers to inspect construction sites and new rules that compel builders to repair bad work. But more needs to be done.

Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer has warned that developers who put profits before safety will trigger an endemic failure of the building industry over the next decade as the ramifications of this become clear. Building regulation expert Stephen Kip says it is extremely likely lives will be lost.

We agree with Mr Kip and others in the industry who believe this is a significant regulatory failure that needs to be urgently addressed.

The response should include a more rigorous system for the registration of tradespeople to ensure they are properly trained and can be held accountable for their work.

A Builders Collective of Australia proposal for a better system of building warranty insurance that includes incentives for developers to use sound construction methods and materials, in part by making them pay to fix faults, is also worth consideration.

There are likely to also be other answers. Finding them requires all parties in Victoria’s Parliament to acknowledge the extent of the problem and work together on a parliamentary inquiry charged with determining how best to respond to fix the buildings already built, and how to stop the problem getting worse. Failure to do this now will only increase the cost in the long term.

Melbourne’s faulty building crisis

Many new buildings in Victoria are not being built to last. Photo: Pat Scala

Victoria is facing a crisis of faulty, dangerous and leaking buildings that experts warn is comparable in scale to the historical scourge of asbestos.
Shoddy materials and poor workmanship mean many homes and apartments in Victoria are likely to be outlived by their owners.

Apartments ‘dog box’ fix from state government doesn’t go far enough: architects

568 Collins Street, the first tower Matthew Guy approved in the CBD. Photo: Eddie Jim

New laws on Melbourne’s apartments that set minimum bedroom and living room sizes are too weak and won’t protect future generations, architects say.

But the laws, announced by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, have been welcomed by planners, and the development and property industry.

Developers had feared being compelled to build apartments with a minimum floor size, as has been the law in Sydney for more than a decade.

This would have dramatically cut profitability.


Warning that ‘warm water’ systems in apartment buildings pose legionella risk

George apartments, North Melbourne Photo: Google Maps

Leading plumbers fear many of Melbourne’s new apartment buildings pose a legionella bacteria risk due to their energy-efficient “warm water” systems.