Topic: News

Combustible

Combustible: The dangerous legacy of failed regulation in the building industry.

“You shouldn’t have a combustible product on the outside of a building of this type, so how has this been allowed to happen?” Fire officer

Across Australia, governments, councils and the building industry are grappling with a problem so large, it almost defies belief.

“It’s unquantifiable…” Senior Fire Officer

Residential buildings, hospitals, shopping centres and commercial buildings, have been built with flammable aluminium cladding, posing a potentially serious fire risk.

“As soon as I saw that on television that night, straight away I knew it was a cladding fire.” Cladding supplier

It took the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in London, which claimed at least 80 lives, to set off alarm bells here, but as Four Corners will reveal, the danger posed by this cladding should not have come as a surprise.

“You can’t tell me that if this product, by all reports, has been used widely in the industry for 10 to 30 years, that major suppliers … didn’t know where this product was going to end up.” Fire officer

On Monday, Four Corners investigates why huge amounts of this aluminium cladding has been installed on so many of our buildings, and whether a desire to cut costs won out over caution.

“We have, if you will, a builder, a certifier and a fire engineer who are incentivized to reduce cost.” Fire Engineer

Insiders say there has been a colossal failure of regulation and oversight.

“There’s people out there that would have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and they’re installing it incorrectly, and they’re the people we compete against every day.” Builder

With access to the tests now under way on suspect aluminium cladding, we reveal the enormity of the problem facing authorities and ask who will pay to remove and replace it.

“Everyone has someone else to point the finger at. The product of deregulation and self accreditation, this process of abrogation of responsibility is that no one is responsible.” Federal politician

Combustible, reported by Debbie Whitmont and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 4th September at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 5th September at 10.00am and Wednesday 6th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.


Jerry-Built: A New Major Category of Building in Australia?

Planning Minister Richard Wynne and VBA CEO Prue Digby must be very concerned with their stated positions that the Lacrosse Building in Docklands that burnt in November 2014 is safe to occupy after Dubai’s sadly aptly-named Torch Tower caught fire for the second time in two years.

 

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Who was responsible for the Last Resort Builders Warranty Insurance?

EVENT Press Conference
LOCATION Kooyong Road, Armadale
DATE 29 September 2003
TIME 1.00pm
SUMMARY A new home warranty insurance initiative will shorten building waiting lists and provide better security to new home buyers and renovators.
Speakers: Ron Silberberg, HIA; Victorian Minister for Finance and Consumer Affairs John Lenders; Nick Kirk, Royal & SunAlliance.
REHAME CONTACT Nicholas Hayes 03 9646 6966
CONVENOR:
It’s a milestone day in terms of warranty insurance for this country and we’ve got a number of speakers who are going to outline some wonderful new moves forward on the warranty insurance front.
The very first speaker today is our managing director of HIA, Dr Ron Silberberg. Would you please welcome Ron.

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Builder Kitchener Crespin found guilty after a six day rampage with a chainsaw causing $170,000 worth of damage.

A Melbourne builder went on a six day rampage with a chainsaw and caused $170,000 damage

Kitchener Crespin has escaped jail after being found guilty of causing $170,000 worth of damage with a chainsaw and sledgehammer.

Kitchener Crespin used the tools when he unleashed on a property in the suburb of Glen Iris, in southeast Melbourne — all because the owners said they would seek legal advice over his demands for more money.

Crespin had a contract for quarter-of-million dollars for work on the property and they had already paid him an additional $100,000.

Unhappy he was still asking for more money they told him they were consulting a lawyer, reported the Nine Network’s A Current Affair.

He went on a six day spree, the final day being recorded on a neighbour’s CCTV camera. They immediately called police.

When officers arrived they found him covered in dust and holding a chainsaw.

He had destroyed the renovation’s framework, cutting through beams and the floor. The entire damage bill came to $170,000.

He was charged him with six counts of criminal damage, to which he defended during a trial that went for almost two months.

Crespin was found guilty, sentenced to 250 hours of community service and ordered to pay $80,000 to the owners, but avoided a prison sentence because his wife had just given birth to twins.

The couple were too afraid to speak on camera but were represented by Phil Dwyer, president of the Builders Collective of Australia.

kitch kitchener crespin

Kitchener Crespin was found guilty of all 6 charges.

“Emotionally, these people will suffer for years to come,” Mr Dwyer told A Current Affair.

“Add to that probably a couple of hundred thousand of dollars’ worth of damage done. But add to that everything else, legal costs and so on. They’re probably facing half a million dollars.”

Crespin has been suspended by the Building Practitioners Board but Mr Dwyer wanted a more serious punishment handed to Crespin.

“How a builder, who builds things, could damage his own work so much, I don’t know,” he said.

The Glen Iris couple are not the only people who regret hiring Crespin to perform renovations.

Melissa Simpson is a single mother with two sets of twins.

After hiring Crespin, her life became even more complicated.

“He’d sloped the floor not towards the drain, but instead towards the floor,” Ms Simpson said. “Every time you had a shower, the water would go out to the hall instead of the drain.”

“He walked away and refused to come back and fix it.”

Ms Simpson took Crespin to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“I got awarded a very small amount of money that wouldn’t be enough to fix it to comply with the building code,” she said.

Houy Ngo has also been left well-and-truly out of pocket as a result of Crespin’s dodgy renovations.

Ms Ngo paid $65,000 to have a cafe renovated.

When she criticised some of Crespin’s work, she claims he became incredibly angry.

“Always angry and mad,” Ms Ngo said. “My family very, very sad.”

Kitchener Kitch Crespin

Houy Ngo (right) paid Kitchener Crespin $65,000 for cafe renovations that did not meet building standards

Ms Ngo’s daughter, Lily, said her mother is now forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week to repay a loan she took out for the renovation work.

“He didn’t respect us at all,” she said. “My mum was his employer, she employed him to come here and do the renovation, but he treated her like a joke.”

“He is deceptive, cunning, a liar.”

kitchener kitch crespin

Kitchener Crespin has been suspended by the Building Practitioners Board

Mr Dwyer would have liked to see a more serious punishment handed to Crespin.

“How a builder, who builds things, could damage his own work so much, I don’t know,” he said.

“A builder’s licence is a privilege. But we seem to have builders licences that don’t mean a lot. We certainly don’t have our regulator acting on cases of this nature.”

Crespin’s registration has been suspended by the Building Practitioners Board.

Read more at 9 News


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.

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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.
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