An investigation has found that components of Sydney’s Opal Tower were under-designed, and made recommendations to stop this happening again. But does it go far enough?
The final investigation report, released today, states the hob beam and panel assembly that caused cracks to appear around Christmas last year did not meet the design requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC) or Australian Standard for Concrete Structures.
“This left the hob beams susceptible to failure by shear compression and bursting,” the report stated.
The report’s authors made several recommendations to prevent defects in future building projects. These include the government establishing a registered engineers database in partnership with an appropriate professional body, as well as a building structure review board to recommend changes to codes after investigating future incidents.
Engineers Australia Victorian President Alesha Printz told ABC News 24 that Engineers Australia has been advocating for mandatory registration for engineers for some time.
“We’d like to see mandatory registration of engineers introduced across the country,” she said.
Printz explained this means engineers would be registered in a similar way to doctors and lawyers, and require accredited qualifications, competences and ongoing professional development.
“The problem in industry at the moment is that anyone can call themselves an engineer,” she said.
Engineers Australia National Manager for Public Affairs Jonathan Russell told create the Opal Tower report reinforces the recommendations of Shergold and Weir’s Building Confidence report, released in 2018.
“This is just further confirmation that the time to act is now,” he added.
Queensland is currently the only state with mandatory registration for engineers, although Victoria is developing legislation to follow suit.
Not just structural engineering or residential buildings
The Opal Tower report also recommends a registered engineer performs on-site checks to see that construction matches design, and an independent registered engineer not involved in the project checks the design of critical elements.
It also suggests that an online database should be established to increase the transparency of the certification and approval process.
According to Dr Jonathan Barnett, Chair of the Engineers Australia Society of Fire Safety, the report’s recommendations should also be applied to fire engineers as well as other engineering disciplines critical to ensuring that buildings are safe.
“This [issue] is endemic across our critical engineering disciplines,” Barnett said.
Russell agreed, stating there is a wide range of engineering disciplines involved in building safety.
“We need to ensure that all disciplines have similar quality control measures,” he said.
The NSW Government recently announced they will introduce registration for engineers who sign-off building designs and those who certify that buildings are constructed according to design.
However, Russell expressed concerns that this measure will be limited to residential high-rise buildings and not applied to commercial constructions or public infrastructure.
“It makes sense to apply it to the full range of buildings in the construction sector,” he explained.
Engineers Australia CEO Peter McIntyre has previously told create that a firm timetable to implement the registration scheme is also needed.
“Engineers Australia is committed to working with the NSW Government to achieve this objective,” he said.