Opal Tower builder Icon has cleared residents to return to the Sydney apartment building which was evacuated 12 months ago after cracking was discovered in the walls, assuring them that it is now “the safest building in Australia”.
The 392-apartment tower, located at the southern end of the Olympic Park Parkview Precinct, was developed by Ecove and was completed in August of 2018.
The 36-storey building was dramatically evacuated on Christmas Eve of 2018—and again four days later—after cracking across the building sparked fears that the tower could collapse.
The problems had occurred in "garden slots"—recesses in the facade on the fourth, 12th, 16th and 26th levels of the $128 million residential tower— where precast concrete panels joined structural columns.
A year on, Icon has completed restoration work on the building having said to have outlaid an estimated $31 million for construction and engineering works across the building and support for the residents of 34 units that were directly affected by remediation works.
“Safety is always our top priority and we have been committed to ensuring residents were back in the building as quickly as possible,” Icon managing director Nicholas Brown said.
“We believe Opal Tower is now the safest building in Australia when it comes to structural integrity.”
Work is scheduled to be finalised in March 2020 with Icon expected to offer residents an extended 20-year structural warranty on the rectification work undertaken on the tower.
“The rectification process understandably was never going to be of a short duration,” Opal Tower apartment owner Brian Jones said.
“I was impressed at [Icon's] genuine concern for the residents and staff associated with Opal Tower.”
Opal unit owners in July lodged a class-action lawsuit against the Sydney Olympic Park Authority which owns the land on which the complex was built.
Cross-claims were subsequently filed by the Olympic Park Authority against Icon, developer Ecove and Australia Avenue Developments.
Builder Icon alleged that cracking was prompted by design failures —rather than any issues with the construction process—and launched its own cross-claim against engineer WSP Structures.
The matter will return to the NSW Supreme Court in February with WSP expected to file its own cross-claims before that date.
The year-long saga sparked widespread concerns about the quality of new developments and the approvals process behind high-rise apartment complexes in Sydney and across Australia.
The Opal Tower saga put the Australian high-rise construction industry firmly under the microscope with a subsequent loss of confidence from the apartment-buying public and policymakers left at a loss about how to respond to the crises of defects, combustible cladding and insurance.
In February, a cladding fire swept up the 43-storey Neo200 apartment building in Melbourne and Mascot Towers in Sydney's inner-south was closed to residents in June after cracks were found in its car park.