16 December 2020

Residents told to leave apartment complex over structural issues

| Ian Bushnell
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Kelkiah Apartments

Kelkiah Apartments in Macquarie: building will need to be propped. Photo: Ray White

The occupants of an apartment complex in Macquarie have been ordered to evacuate the building due to structural safety concerns despite government engineers saying there was no need.

The residents of the 12-year-old 40-unit Kelkiah Apartments in Wiseman Street were advised in writing by the strata manager at 5:00 pm Tuesday (15 December) that they should leave the building due to concerns about the pillars in the basement being at risk in a fire, based on advice from a building consultant and structural engineer.

It is believed the fire rating of the pillars does not meet specific safety standards.

But according to the Constructions Occupations Registrar Ben Green, a 2:00 pm meeting on-site on Tuesday of the owners corporation, their engineers and government engineers, and ACT Fire and Safety officers determined that there was no need for residents to leave the building, only that vehicles should be removed from the basement to reduce the fire load.

”There is no direction from us nor is it our understanding since that the experts appointed by the owners corporation have directed the evacuation of residents from that building,” he told the ABC, saying the order came from the strata manager.

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He said that the owners corporation through the strata manager had made his office aware of the concerns on 10 December.

Mr Green said the way forward would be to start propping to support the structure in January.

The builder is Madison Constructions, which no longer holds a licence in Canberra.

The Registrar is taking the company to court in January over failure to rectify non-structural defects, but the age of the building means it cannot take action on the pillars.

Mr Green said the building would have been given the all clear by private certifiers, and the government has committed to reintroducing public certifiers for particular projects.

”And that is something I would recommend and be happy to support its implementation, particularly of buildings of high risk as we see through multi-unit residential sector,” he said.

He was not aware of any other similar issues with buildings by Madison Constructions.

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An ACT Government spokesperson confirmed that there had been no direction from the government to evacuate the units within the building.

The spokesperson said that on 10 December the owners corporation advised Access Canberra of an engineering report that it had commissioned which recommended propping of the structural columns of the building’s basement.

The government understands that the owners corporation engineers will be seeking to have the basement area propped in January.

Officers have been working to support the owners corporation, including meeting on-site with its appointed engineers on Tuesday.

”At that time, there was no indication given to ACT Government that the owners corporation would direct the evacuation of the building,” the spokesperson said.

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The government will continue to work with the owners corporation, which is responsible for the ongoing safety of the building and its residents, but the building regulator is not able to undertake any action because the period for doing so expired 10 years after the date the occupancy certificate was issued.

The spokesperson said the owners corporation was continuing to consult with experts to determine the next steps required to ensure the structural integrity of the building and the safety of residents, and the government would continue to monitor the situation.

ACT Fire and Rescue have been made aware of key issues in the report by Peak Consulting commissioned by the owners corporation and advice from a structural engineer.

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