- – The Age Newspaper Victoria
- Source: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/mould-and-fungus-push-residents-out-of-dangerous-apartment-complex
- December 20, 2016
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.
While questions remain about the safety of the Lacrosse building in Docklands, where there was a serious fire in 2014, it has been revealed that mould, fungus and building collapse has left a six-year-old apartment complex in the south-eastern suburbs virtually uninhabitable.
About half the residents of the building have already moved out after units were declared uninhabitable because of mould growth, including fungus “mushrooms” sprouting from the carpet.
“I’ve seen mould a metre and a half up a wall and four metres long,” said an owners corporation representative, who did not want to be named.
“I can show you carpet that you think is grass.”
Twelve of the 15 apartments are said to have “major issues”, including with fire proofing, and the defect bill is so large that the complex may eventually have to be demolished.
The roof of one of the units is being propped up by temporary timber framing because leaking from a balcony above it has caused the ceiling space to collapse. The owner is reportedly still paying off the mortgage.
The owners corporation representative said if the local council’s building surveyor was aware of the problems they would probably order the remaining residents to leave.
“These owners have a building that cost $4 million to put up, and they have a repair bill of $3.5 million, plus $750,000 already in legal fees.
“They are very nearly nailed up against the wall with no place to go.”
Mould expert Dr Wesley Black described the case as one of the worst he had seen in recent years.
“There is no drying it out, or spraying it or fogging it or gassing it. It will require a full strip out and possibly demolition,” he said.
Dr Black said he was also working on a case in outlying suburb in Melbourne where poor workmanship in a home less than five years old caused a family to drink water with high levels of copper (which is known to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, gastric complaints and headaches).
He said the source was traced back to the kitchen tap, after a little girl living in the home was found to have high levels of copper in her blood.
“It’s these dodgy builders,” Dr Black said. “Obviously someone has welded together a copper pipe and a galvanised iron pipe, which is causing a galvanic reaction like a battery, causing the copper to corrode, and they’re drinking it.”
Dr Black said about 50 per cent of mould cases he investigates were caused by bad building practices, amid warnings from industry experts that thousands of homes and apartments in Victoria are so poorly constructed that they are at risk of becoming prematurely derelict.
Major concerns about building construction standards have been making headlines in Victoria since it was discovered that a fire that swept up the facade of the Lacrosse tower in November 2014 was fuelled by “non-compliant” and combustible cladding.
While the building is now occupied, fire-safety experts say residents should never have been allowed to return, pointing to other cases around the world where combustible cladding caused deaths.
Melbourne’s municipal building surveyor maintains that the Lacrosse building is safe to occupy provided that “interim safety measures”, including keeping balconies clear of clutter, are maintained.
But Fire Protection Association Australia chief executive Scott Williams said if the building didn’t meet the minimum standards “it must be by definition unsafe”.
“We know it is a combustible product, it shouldn’t be there, it poses a risk,” he said.
Mr Williams called for leadership from the Andrews government on the issue of building standards in Victoria, saying the problem could threaten investment in the state because of concerns over the “risk and liability” attached to poor workmanship.
He said a parliamentary inquiry could be necessary to avoid lives being lost in the future.
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade has previously warned that future apartment fires may be so dangerous that firefighters could be ordered not to enter burning buildings to rescue residents.