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Welcome to the Faulty Towers state, where any mug's an engineer

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I’m sorry, run that by me again? We don’t require engineers to be licensed, qualified
or registered? So the hundreds of shonky-looking resi-towers newly metastasising
across our city don’t just look like slums-in-waiting but may have no structural or fire
integrity to speak of because anyone, including my great aunt Cecily’s dog Tozer,
can sign their engineering certificates. Seriously?

Credit:Simon Letch

Tuesday’s interim report on the twice-evacuated Opal tower, by engineering
professors Hoffman, Cart and Foster, tells us the building is structurally sound, in
that it (probably) won’t fall down, but has major damage. Two causes are pinpointed:
faulty design, using lower-than-required safety factors, and poor construction,
deviating from both design and good practice.

The building, as you know, is pretty ornery to look at. A green glass faceted triangle
far taller than any neighbours, its look of soulless oppression is relieved only by a
number of tall “slots” or “vertical gardens”, walled in six-storey pre-cast load-bearing
concrete. It’s in these walls, and the beams supporting them, that the damage has
principally occurred.

But what’s fascinating about this appalling concatenation of errors and deceits is the
degree to which it is systemic. We don’t know how widespread building disasters are
because no-one is collecting data, but as the UNSW City Futures Research Institute
recently wrote, our “system allowing defective apartment buildings” creates huge
social and economic risks for the new compact city.

In our world, building is driven by profit. Beneath that, three systems intersect: legal,
planning and engineering. If I owned a new Sydney apartment – which thank God I
don’t – all three........

© The Age