Study Finds Three Quarters of Buildings Have Defects


A pilot study into the quality of buildings in Australia’s multi-residential sector has revealed that defects are “proliferating” and 85 per cent of new buildings have at least one defect.

Structural defects identified in Sydney’s Mascot and Opal towers, along with high-profile cladding concerns, has exposed the complications around liability and lack of consumer protections in the multi-owned residential sector.

Deakin University’s Nicole Johnston and Griffith University’s Sacha Reid conducted an analysis of 212 building audit reports — identifying 3,227 building defects with an average 14 defects identified per building.

In New South Wales, 97 per cent of buildings had at least one defect, which dropped to 74 per cent in Victoria and 71 per cent in Queensland.

The most common defects identified in the report were water ingress, internal and external wall cracking, roofing and guttering problems and tiling faults.

More than 40 per cent of the defects identified in the 212 building audits were related to cladding, followed by fire protection (13.26pc), waterproofing (11.46pc), roof and rainwater disposal (8.58pc) and structural (7.25pc).

The authors said that the number of defects present in buildings was “significant” and described the number of defects related to fire safety as “alarming”.

“The type of defects commonly observed require invasive and often costly remedial works to rectify.”

A study reviewed by the authors into seven buildings with structural defects found that 32 per cent of defects originated in the early phase of development, 45 per cent originated on site and 20 per cent were material and machinery related.

“Studies have shown 50 per cent to 60 per cent of building defects are attributed to design issues, or would have been preventable with better design,” the authors said.

Building defects: in numbers

At least one defect (across multiple locations) Average number of defects per building
All States85%14

An examination of building defects in residential multi-owned properties — Nicole Johnston (Deakin); Sacha Reid (Griffith).

In New South Wales, the state government has set out its agenda for reform in the wake of the fallout from mass resident evacuations caused by defects in Sydney’s Mascot towers.

The first recommendation of the Shergold-Weir report that building practitioners must be registered has been adopted, along with the appointment of a building commissioner.

A new industry-wide principle of duty of care, which allows home owners to seek compensation in the case of negligence, and the requirement that all buildings are fully-compliant with the national building code round out the four key reforms.

In Queensland, QBCC commissioner Brett Bassett said that the body receives about 4,000 defects-related complaints per year.

“On average we issue approximately 350 failure to rectify notices per year,” Bassett said.

“Historically most complaints come from homeowners in free-standing dwellings, but we’re seeing a small increase in the number of complaints coming from residents in high-rise dwellings and we are increasing the level of work we direct to high-rise construction.”


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