Cracking Up

Cracking Up

2019, Society  -   1 Comment
Ratings: 8.26/10 from 31 users.

Australia is undergoing an apartment construction crisis. Walls are cracking, facades are crumbling, and consumer confidence is even shakier. These structural deficiencies are the result of poor workmanship and a government that has been far too slow to act. In Cracking Up, the ABC News Four Corners series investigates this dilemma that has placed countless apartment dwellers in danger.

Apartment living has become an increasingly popular option for Australian consumers who aren't tailored for quiet, suburban life. Apartments promise a more free-wheeling lifestyle in the middle of the action; modern housing that's close to work and appealing nightlife. The ideal has become a nightmare for many, however.

The construction flaws have been apparent for some time. In an 11-year old apartment building situated directly above a subway stop, structural cracks led to the mass evacuation of each tenant. Some cash-strapped residents were left with no place to go. This might sound like an extreme, singular incident, but it's actually indicative of what is occurring throughout the country's apartment housing market. In some sections, up to 97% of surveyed buildings showed varying degrees of defects.

A panel of industry experts and whistleblowers outline the recipe for impending disaster. The defects, we are told, take hold from the onset of the process. Reputed architects are dismissed after their initial concept is drawn. That's when the cost-cutting measures begin. Lead developers take those concepts and hire builders and craftsmen who are ill-trained. It's a rushed and poorly regulated "design and construct" model that's responsible for placing the country's apartment infrastructure in peril.

These defects are an epidemic even across the upper-class apartment dwellings, and they're by no means limited to the occasional leak and mold outbreak. The documentary cameras travel through various buildings, and catch glimpse of a series of severe structural deformities. The filmmakers speak to apartment owners who testify to the stress they live under on a daily basis. Will their homes crumble and take them with it? Will they be forced to foot the bill for repairs themselves?

Cracking Up is an eye-opening expose that portrays an industry rife with substandard labor, cheap building materials, and lax oversight.

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David Dieni
David Dieni
2 years ago

When I first started working in the building industry in Melbourne in the late 1990's the first thing I noticed was the widespread use of blue board (that is essentially a thicker grade of cement sheeting) that was nailed to the exterior of second floor buildings and then rendered with a thin coat of some polymer.

It was never used on ground floors as it was weak and easily damaged. It was obvious that this practice had evolved as it was much cheaper than any other alternative, however just as obvious was the fact that the joints that had no strength, and where rigid and had no flex whatsoever would soon crack, which of course happened and Melbourne is now littered with these eyes sores. Whats worse is they age prematurely. Not sure if that is due to cheap paint, or the material is prone to picking up dust in the wind that sticks to.

The building standards of the past required that the first two stories of any building that was say three or four stories tall, had to be brick veneer as a minimum to ensure long term integrity, this had been abandoned at the time I started work. The distances building could be erected from fence-lines had also shrunk to almost nothing, to maximize the amount of units that could be built a each block. Many beautiful period homes in the inner city suburbs were bulldozed as a part of the gentrification process and replaced by these eyesores.

The only exceptions were when large blocks were cleared for 10 to 15 story apartment blocks where concrete tilt panels were mainly used in construction, however the apartments themselves were dog boxes, every space saving technique was used in order to maximize profits.

In order to cut costs, the hiring of painters and tilers who were not trained tradespeople was widespread and in my opinion represented false economy, as they were unreliable, inefficient, and produced substandard work that often had to be redone or masked in someway. Tilers were the worst,. as they never set jobs out properly. A professional tiler will measure the room and the size of tile, and would often start with a tile cut down by a third to make sure the last tile was similar in size and you did not end up a very thin, ugly tile when you came to the opposite wall.

As a person who has studied political economy, its not that builders (and bankers) have become more mercenary and greedy, it is due to the attempt to offset the continual fall in profits that will lead to ultimate collapse.

In the seventies woman went to work to offset this problem, in the eighties it was deregulation in order to exploit cheap labor, by the end of the nineties is was the turn to credit.

All means have now been exhausted as the debt continues to spiral out of control, jobs are shed and homes forfeited. The most important thing to understand is the system we rely on to obtain that which we need to live, yet 99% have no working knowledge whatsoever and now we are paying the price for our lack of engagement