Darwin apartment block allegedly came 'close to catastrophic collapse' during construction


September 06, 2019 06:46:29

A multi-storey apartment complex in Darwin “came close to catastrophic collapse” during its construction, according to court documents in a $6 million lawsuit against the structural engineer at the centre of a separate government probe into non-compliant buildings.

Key points:

  • The building’s structural engineer is being sued for alleged breach of contract, negligence and misleading conduct
  • A statement of claim alleges major faults began to appear in December 2016, including cracking in the first-floor concrete slab
  • The structural engineer has been accused of under-designing nine other buildings

The Allure building at 286 Casuarina Drive in Nightcliff has since been fully rectified to ensure it meets national standards.

But documents tendered in the Northern Territory Supreme Court allege the five-storey complex — which is now advertised as “the epitome of waterfront living” — almost collapsed before its completion in 2017.

Head contractor Kara Developments is suing the building’s structural engineer, John Scott of JWS Consultants, for alleged breach of contract, negligence, and misleading conduct.

‘Came close to catastrophic collapse’

A statement of claim alleges major faults began to appear in December 2016, including cracking in the first-floor concrete slab and a large “hump” where a column connected with the slab.

The construction site was subsequently closed by the head contractor “in circumstances where the potential for the complete failure of the slab presented an immediate, apparent and significant risk to the safety of employees, contractors and other entrants to the site”, the documents state.

A different structural engineer, who was engaged to inspect the faults, concluded the slab had been under-designed.

“The structural failure observed over the central column and the rear of the development came close to catastrophic collapse, which may have initiated a general collapse,” the documents state.

The site remained closed for a further month while temporary support structures were put in place.

Permanent rectification works were then undertaken to ensure the building met national guidelines prior to its occupancy certificate being issued.

Those works included the installation of 16 new columns, the extension of 10 existing columns, and the addition of steel support beams to reinforce the slab.

Kara Developments is suing Mr Scott for $6.2 million for allegedly designing and certifying slabs that were not fit for purpose and ultimately led to major faults, the court papers state.

The claim includes the cost of rectification works and the financial penalties Kara Developments suffered because of the building not being completed in the required timeframe.

The case is scheduled to return to the NT Supreme Court on October 11 for a directions hearing.

Two-year investigation into structural engineer

The issues that emerged at the Allure building in late 2016 and early 2017 prompted the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL) to launch a two-year investigation into the work of Mr Scott.

That probe led to the identification of nine other buildings across Darwin and Palmerston that were deemed to have concrete transfer slabs that did not meet Australian standards.

Some of the affected buildings have since been fixed, but several still require permanent solutions to ensure they meet the National Construction Code.

DIPL has referred Mr Scott to the Building Practitioners Board for alleged professional misconduct pertaining to a pattern of non-compliance with the National Construction Code.

The board was due to hold an inquiry last month, but the hearing was delayed and a new date has not yet been set.










First posted

September 06, 2019 06:41:07

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