Huge cost of Opal disaster revealed


Builders of the cracked apartment complex Opal Towers have revealed the multimillion-dollar cost of the building's evacuation in court documents filed this month.

Icon Co says it has spent $26.5 million so far on fixing defects and covering other costs for residents and owners, including more than $10 million for accommodation in hotels and other storage costs.

Residents of the 392-unit building in Sydney Olympic Park were evacuated on Christmas Eve, 2018, after they heard loud noises and felt minor tremors. Cracks were later discovered on three floors.

The evacuation happened less than six months after the first residents moved into the landmark building, which offers expansive views of the city and features attractive "sky gardens".

An interim report released by the NSW Government early this year found several design and construction issues likely caused the damage to Opal Tower.

Unit owners are now suing the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, the State Government body that owns the land that Opal Tower sits on, in what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

In response, the authority has lodged cross claims against those involved in overseeing the design and construction of the building, including Australian Avenue Developments Pty Ltd, Ecove and Icon Co.

This month, Icon Co, the company that constructed the building, also lodged a cross claim against WSP, arguing the structural engineers should be liable for its losses as well as any damages it may have to pay to unit owners.

RELATED: Interim report reveals design and construction issues

Opal Tower residents were evacuated twice from their building in Olympic Park, Sydney.
Opal Tower residents were evacuated twice from their building in Olympic Park, Sydney.

Documents filed in the NSW Supreme Court on December 3 suggest Icon should be reimbursed for $26,480,814.59 in costs. This includes $6.8 million it spent on accommodation and storage costs for unit owners as well as $4 million on accommodation costs for renters.

Another $144,913 was spent on covering lost rental income for owners who were unable to lease their properties in the aftermath of the evacuation and during the repair works.

Icon says it has cost $13.7 million so far to fix the common property, and $128,531 was paid to owners for access to certain units so repairs could be done.

Another $1.7 million was paid to the Owners Corporation to cover insurance costs so it did not have to ask owners for the money.

The court documents also reveal more details about the structural problems at Opal Tower and how they may have occurred.

Icon Co argues that WSP failed to design loading bearing beams, known as hob beams, that were strong enough to prevent the cracking and also did not specify a specific strength of concrete.

RELATED: Flawed process that approved Opal Tower

RELATED: Missing report raises concerns about 'sloppy' practices

A damaged floor slab on Level 10. Picture: Supplied
A damaged floor slab on Level 10. Picture: Supplied

It also suggests that WSP approved design changes to allow a precast panel on level 4 to be replaced with an in-situ wall and to increase the thickness of the panel on level 10 to 200mm.

Icon Co says it sent WSP a photo of an electrical conduit placed within a hob beam and received a reply that the photo appeared to comply with structural drawings so assumed it was in accordance with the design.

Icon Co also says it was led to believe that WSP had approved certain other changes because it had placed a "reviewal stamp" on drawings.

This includes changes to the thickness of the panel on level 16 and reducing the amount of grouting used between the precast panel and the hob beams that they sat on.

The "reviewal stamp" indicated that drawings had been "reviewed, no comments" and noted: "This drawing has been checked for structural adequacy only in the final compliance with the design intent."

It also noted: "This review does not relieve the builder of responsibility under the contract. Compliance with specified requirements and statutory regulations remain the responsibility of the builder."


The Opal Tower at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
The Opal Tower at Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

WSP carried out site inspections throughout the building process, and Icon Co says it did not raise any issues about the changes.

The two companies also appear to be in a stand-off over the rectification works, which are expected to be completed by March 2020.

Icon Co says WSP is refusing to provide rectification design certification to confirm its design drawings comply with the Building Code of Australia and other relevant standards, but WSP is asking Icon Co to clarify why it needs to provide this certificate.



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Damage at Opal Towers.
Damage at Opal Towers.

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