Portrait of construction engineers working on building site together

Opal Tower Building Defects: Avoiding the Blame Game

Australia’s building and construction industry looks like being in for a major shake-up following the highly publicised cracking in the Opal Tower at Sydney Olympic Park over the Christmas break, as well as the fire that engulfed five storeys of a Melbourne high rise on the 4th of February.

Following the global attention received by London’s Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, in which 17 people died as a result of a fire spread by faulty building cladding, there has been considerable speculation about the use of sub-standard cladding in Australia and the possibility of a similar occurrence here.  The fire in Melbourne, combined with disturbing footage of the cracks in Opal Tower and media reports of a ‘whistleblower’ highlighting allegedly shoddy building practices, means that the industry will be under intense scrutiny moving forward.

Australia’s construction industry is one of the largest growing sectors in the country, with commercial construction work increasing by over 9% in 2018 alone.  With this rapid growth, and the rate at which building is undertaken, we are bound to see a rise in the number of building defect claims over the next few years.

As an expert in Building and Construction law, I have successfully represented a large number of construction companies, builders, contractors, developers and other major industry players in a wide range of disputes.  Regardless of the individual circumstances – for instance whether a dispute includes claims of building defects such as in the Opal Tower or the use of faulty cladding – the key to successfully resolving any dispute is to address the issue quickly, decisively and cooperatively.

The main issues we are seeing at the moment relate to defects in water proofing, fire code compliance, concrete and integrity related issues, and at a process level, the role of certifiers.  Unfortunately, the number of parties involved in any major construction project can make it difficult to identify where any corrective action is required or who is ‘at fault’.

A watertight contract may help to minimise the blame game that can ensue following a dispute and also facilitate a smoother resolution process.  Over the years, I have seen many parties fall on their own sword by simply not complying with the terms of the contract or the time frames they have signed and agreed to.  In fact, I am presently advising a client on a significant Supreme Court dispute in relation to a claim that involves millions of dollars and their legal rights.  It is a convoluted paradigm given the many parties at play and the legalities of liability, accountability, rectification, EOT claim, Liquidated Damages and Delay claims, variations, compliance and certification amongst others. 

To avoid a lengthy dispute and what can amount to months or years of expensive litigation and finger-pointing, the best approach is always to be proactive.  Always ensure that your contracts are in order, any time frames you agree to are actually achievable, and that you are aware of any risk you are taking on before works commence, including steps you can take to minimise that risk.  

Whenever a construction issue arises, whether you are a builder, developer or contractor, you need to seek expert advice immediately.  For more information, or confidential advice regarding potential liability, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

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