Modern Commercial Buildings - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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Modern Commercial Buildings - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Modern Commercial Buildings - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The Opal Tower crisis in Sydney, which led to the evacuation of the residents after cracks appeared in the building, came as a surprise to many. Although structural defects are not uncommon, it still brought up the issue of stability and reliability of the high-rise buildings taking over the skyline of Australian cities. As more out-of-the-box facades emerge in the metropolitan areas, the safety and construction quality of these buildings are becoming a concern.

The construction industry in the country has been under the scanner for a while now. There have been compliance failures in the past which have led to disasters such as the 2014 fire at Lacrosse Building in Melbourne’s Docklands. However, the Opal Tower crisis served as an eye-opener for investors planning to purchase commercial property for sale in Australia.

Even though it was a residential structure, it brought forth the gaps in the construction industry which can affect the buyers. Taking a cue from the past experiences, it is essential to pay attention to the question - ‘What could possibly go wrong with the modern commercial buildings?’ Here is what you need to know.


Most Buyers Skip Inspection

In most cases, the buyers of commercial real estate deliberately avoid a structural inspection as the buildings are massive and assessments can take time. Often the investigation becomes tedious because a commercial building is usually made from a variety of materials and requires specialised evaluation.

Additionally, many investors assume that a modern and brand new building will be devoid of any internal damages and continue with the purchase process without giving inspection a thought. They are under the impression that a pre-fabricated structure cannot go wrong.

However, they miss out on the challenges with rooves, which are a significant concern for commercial set-ups. For instance, the most common problem is a leakage in box gutters which can shake the foundation of the edifice. Thus a thorough check-up of the health of the building is essential.


Construction Industry Challenges

The construction industry in Australia has been facing a lot of problems for a long time. The Cole Royal Commission of 2001 revealed that the industry was grappling with lawlessness and recommended various changes which were established in 2005. Later in 2012, legislative reforms were introduced to further stabilise the situation.

The recent events have once again prompted the need for a royal commission. The lack of accountability on the part of engineers, architects and designers has dampened the confidence of investors. The Opal Tower disaster has made many pay heed to the recommendations made in the Building Confidence report which have to be implemented by all the states.

In a nutshell, the condition of the construction industry has deteriorated over the years and the urban redevelopment plans have seen the maximum structural issues.


Common Structural Defects

Besides the box gutters, the screws and fixtures used in the construction are prone to metal corrosion, which makes them expand and pop out, and this leads to seepage. Sometimes, the cracks found on the surface are superficially plastered to maintain the look and feel. However, the problem can be much more in-depth such as cracks in the internal structure.

These glaring problems were identified in the Building Confidence report a year before the Opal Tower fiasco. However, no action was taken then. Additionally, subsidence is a common problem in many areas which is the sudden or slow sinking of the ground caused by natural processes or human activities such as mining, or extraction of underground water, petrol and natural gas. Subsidence can also lead to cracking. 

Also, a faulty drainage system can weaken the foundation of the building by changing the constitution of the soil. Another problem is the unskilled installation of articulation joints which get dispersed from their position when the soil changes its shape due to natural processes. This proves that there are many structural defects which need to be checked before taking the possession. 


How Bad Can It Get?

The situation is not out of control like some Asian countries where the whole building tumbles down. However, the structural damages need restoration, and these are expensive. After the property has been sold, the bills automatically fall into the lap of the property owners. In other situations, the people involved are drawn into a blame game.

The designer blames the workmanship and the workers say that they did what they were directed to do. Sometimes, the builders just disappear to steer clear of the allegations and the following expenditure. This has made many investors move to the regional areas because of the affordability factor as well as the trust in small builders.

Similar patterns can be seen in the neighbouring country of New Zealand where leaky building syndrome and dealing with it has become a common thing. The government is taking measures to educate people about the inspection of leaky homes to deal with the crisis.


Future Plans

Although the construction industry has faced many upheavals, there are amendments being made. The recent Opal Tower cracks have got things moving and plans are being made to avert similar situations in high-rise residential and commercial buildings. Recently, the biggest revamp of building laws in New South Wales was announced to protect home buyers.

The move is likely to become a nationwide change which will include the appointment of a building commissioner to approve the designs and each phase of construction will be closely monitored and inspected for defects. To further boost accountability among the workers, every person working on the project will have to be registered. This will help in bringing back the lost trust of the investors.

Moreover, various billion-dollar infrastructure projects are underway in the metropolitan regions and the builders do not want the investors to back off. Thus the recommendations are being implemented and the future promises to be better than the past.



Often people turn a blind eye to the quality of the finished building when a prominent builder is associated with the project and it is being built on a massive scale. However, keeping the recent events in mind, you must make the required inspections before investing in commercial real estate for sale in Australia. It can help in securing your investment and ensure that you are not being duped.             



Author Info Sophie Barrett

Sophie Barrett is an experienced real estate marketing professional with a specialisation in commercial property market. She has a Masters degree in marketing from the esteemed Melbourne Business School and has several property management certificates to her credit. Her shrewd marketing policies and business acumen have led to the most rewarding property deals in the major capital cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. She is a popular name in the real estate market and has been serving the industry for almost two decades now. CommercialProperty2Sell is proud to partner with her for some astute discussions and advice on the booming sector.  

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