The Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park has hundreds of empty apartments. Picture: Dylan Robinson
The Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park has hundreds of empty apartments. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Hundreds of Opal residents still homeless

CRACKS and damage that appeared in a Sydney apartment block, that forced hundreds of residents to evacuate the building on Christmas Eve, were likely caused by a decision to only partially grout key joints between key load bearing beams and panels, an official probe has found.

Beams at Sydney's infamous Opal Tower were "prone to failure" and there were multiple design and construction faults that led to damage at Opal Tower the NSW Government commissioned report has said.

Parts of the building are "significantly damaged," the authors said.

The complex, in Sydney's Olympic Park, was evacuated at Christmas with at least 250 of the 400 units remaining empty months later. Some residents have said they will never return.

The NSW government-commissioned report found that while the building was structurally sound overall, horizontal support beams in the building were of inferior strength and were not compliant.

It said qualified structural engineers should check the final design and construction proposals for the tower before major rectification works began and the building as deemed completely safe.

Cracks and damage that appeared at the apartment complex.
Cracks and damage that appeared at the apartment complex.

"A number of structural design and construction issues, including noncompliance with national codes and standards were responsible for the observed damage at Opal Tower," the probe said.

"The decision, taken after the initial design, to grout only partially the joints between the hob beams and panels, significantly raised the levels of stress in the hob beams

"We found some of the hob beams and panel assemblies were under-designed according to the National Construction Code and Australian Standards, leaving the beams prone to failure."

"We have found no evidence contradicting our interim assertion that the building is

overall structurally sound, although there is significant damage to some elements."

The expert engineers' report recommended creating databases of registered engineers and NSW building certifications, along with a building structure review board to monitor known property design flaws and shape future building codes.

About 170 Opal Tower apartments have been deemed fit for reoccupation but 224 units were still unfit earlier this month, with dozens of families still left in temporary accommodation.

More to come

- with AAP