Boom in High Rise Building Construction Gives Rise to Safety Concerns

Population growth in Australia has created more demand for accommodation. This has led to a boom in high-rise building construction. Unfortunately, this boom has created several safety concerns.

Up until 2009, the rate of apartment construction in Australia was quite flat. But the rate of building approval and construction has shot up in the years since. By 2015, apartments accounted for over 30% of all new building approvals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Population growth has played a large role in this spike in apartment buildings. More people live in Australia’s capital cities than ever before, which is why the cost of units seems to be on the rise. This increased demand has created a boom period for the construction industry. High-rise buildings have shot up at an enormous rate, catering for population growth and migration. This also means that people have smaller living spaces.

Such rampant construction has the potential to create an array of issues. Construction companies are in a rush to get projects finished, which leads to oversights during construction. Furthermore, constant construction means there’s less time to focus on compliant building products. This could lead to low quality products entering into the supply chain.

This is not conjecture either. An array of news stories suggest that this high-rise boom has led to problems.

The Issues

Faster construction rates give rise to several problems. These include the following:

  • The use of non-compliant building products
  • Oversights in designs and construction
  • Fire safety concerns
  • Spontaneous glass breakage

Each of these problems have manifested themselves in recent years. Let’s look at some examples of these issues that have made the news.

Issue #1 – Non-Compliant Building Products

The Australian Industry Group (AIG) recently carried out a survey across 220 businesses and leading figures from across the building industry.

Australia has strict building construction codes in place that ensure the quality of the components used in buildings. Yet most of those surveyed have come across non-compliant products (NCPs) in their work.

92% say that NCPs are a major problem in their sector. This covers fabrication, manufacturing, and construction. All have problems with NCPs, and all play a part in the construction of high-rise buildings.

This raises immediate concerns. What is even more worrying is the level of NCP market penetration. Some even believe that half of products used in the industry don’t meet compliance standards.

The problem arises when those in the industry fail to spot these NCPs. With poor regulation and enforcement allowing them to seep into the supply chain, it is up to the industry to police itself. It only takes one oversight to allow an NCP to slip through the cracks. When that happens, the entire project gets placed at risk. The NCP could be the reason why a sheet of glass shatters or an apartment building is more at risk of setting on fire.

Now, consider the increased speed of apartment construction in recent years. If NCPs are such a problem, hurrying building construction is not the solution – it only leads to even more potential for oversights.

Issue #2 – Rushed Designs

Rushing does not only affect those in the manufacturing and construction sectors – it also causes major problems for designers and architects. If they have to rush their work, they may overlook processes that cause problems.

At best, these oversights get caught during the construction process. They prevent the building from going up in the first place. This necessitates a redesign, which costs time and money. But, at least in this case the oversight does not cause any damage to people or property.

Oversights can lead to problems for the buildings later. For example, failure to protect against water seepage may not become an issue for several years. But it rears its head whenever a tropical cyclone occurs. There are many stories in the media about homes that could withstand the battering of the winds. Yet, they had design oversights that allowed water to seep into the property. This seepage did not damage the structure, but it caused thousands of dollars of property damage. Incorporating compliant windows in the design could have helped avoid this problem from the start.

Such problems occur at the design level. Rushed designers can’t account for everything because their minds are already moving onto the next project.

Issue #3 – Fire Safety Concerns

It’s the design oversights that go uncaught that present a bigger problem. Take the building fire that occurred at Docklands in Melbourne in 2014 as an example. The architects approved the use of standard-grade Alucobest cladding for the building. However, this form of cladding is actually non-compliant. It does not meet the combustibility criteria outlined in AS1530.1:1994.

The designers should have noticed this and instead use a fire-resistant cladding. Unfortunately, the design error went uncaught and the building eventually fell victim to a fire.

On the international level, the Grenfell Tower fire is one of the most prominent building disasters. That fire led to the deaths of over 70 people, with more people suffering from a slew of injuries.

It’s a major issue and it’s one that raises several questions. The AIG survey highlights how much NCPs have penetrated the Australian building sector.

How many more Australian high-rise buildings use non-compliant cladding? What can the industry do about it?

Unfortunately, there are not any easy answers. It’s almost impossible to know how many high-rise buildings have gone up during the boom that use insufficient cladding.

Issue #4 – Spontaneous Glass Breakage

A lesser known problem relates to the spontaneous shattering and falling of glass from high-rise buildings, perhaps from not using compliant windows in the construction and other forms of oversight.

There are several recent reports of this occurring. In May 2017, a panel fell from the Allianz Building in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD). Luckily, the panel hit a gym and did not cause any severe injuries. But it is all too easy to think of the damage to human life that it could have caused.

Similar problems have affected a group of Melbourne apartments. Witnesses have reported seeing glass balconies shattering without reason. Again, they have yet to cause any injuries, but it seems like it is only a matter of time before glass breakage in apartments has a human cost.

Several issues can lead to spontaneous glass breakage. Poor testing of the thermal stress the glass can withstand is a leading cause, as well as minor damage during the manufacture and installation of glass panels. Even a tiny chip on the edge of a glass panel places undue stress on the panel, weakening the glass’ structural integrity until it eventually shatters.

Again, that brings us to the main problem. How many damaged panels of glass have construction crews installed during the high-rise boom? This faster rate of construction does not lend itself to close checks. And the fact that we are talking about spontaneous glass shattering at all shows that current regulations aren’t effective.

The Problem’s Scale

Any one of these issues presents a serious cause for concern in construction. However, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility that some high-rise buildings have a combination of these problems.

The combination of rushed work and the lack of compliant building products in the supply chain contribute. There also appears to be a lack of regulatory action that would help to solve the problem.

Problems With the Building Code

Several in the industry believe that Australia’s building codes are not up to the correct standard. More specifically, they note that regulators are not enforcing the code well enough.

It’s difficult to argue against this point. The sheer number of NCPs in the supply chain suggests that regulators are not doing enough to crack down on shoddy suppliers.

A report from the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia reflects the opinions of many. It said: “The system is there. However, regulators are not resourced and lack the will to act. The situation of non-compliant product is not taken seriously, and regulators do not act on complaints nor impose penalties.”

Other organisations note that chasing cheaper construction leads to shoddy products.

It seems that a problem with the building codes is to blame. However, enforcement of these codes is not at a high enough level to have an effect. The problem is that Australia’s population growth has led to more construction projects. If this lack of regulatory oversight was a problem before, it is now a major issue. After all, more construction means more NCPs slipping through the cracks.

Possible Solutions

That leads us to one question: What can the industry do about these problems?

At the immediate level, it seems like the industry needs stronger regulation and having building codes in place is only the first step. A lack of enforcement leads to the situation that we have now because of a lack of focus on quality and compliant building products. NCPs have gotten into the supply chain because of oversights at several levels. But it’s a lack of enforcement that has allowed it to keep happening. Less scrupulous companies provide and use NCPs safe in the knowledge that they’ll face little punishment.

It’s also possible that a slowdown in construction projects would help. Australia’s rapid population increases may not allow for this. However, there’s no denying that rushed work leads to oversights. You need only look at the glass shattering and cladding fire problems to see the results of rushing in action.

Finally, the onus may be on designers and construction crews to source quality products. For the time being, it seems like they cannot rely on regulators as much as they should be able to. This means they have to think more about the needs of the buildings and clients. Reliable window suppliers like Safetyline Jalousie create high quality products such as compliant windows that meet or exceed current standards. Using such suppliers, instead of going for the cheapest option, leads to savings in the long run. It ensures projects do not experience delays and creates happy clients and residents.

Conclusion

The high-rise boom is not necessarily a bad thing. It has likely created more jobs in the Australian building sector.

However, it’s clear that this rapid increase in work has created a number of new problems. Oversights at the design stage and the increasing surge of NCPs into the supply chain are an issue. So too is the lack of regulatory enforcement that should prevent this from happening.

You need to avoid all these problems, which means you need a reliable window supplier. That is where Safetyline Jalousie can help. If you are looking for compliant windows for a high-rise building, we recommend you do the following:

References:

1. The Growth of Apartment Construction in Australia – Reserve Bank of Australia

2. High-rise ‘time bomb’ warning prompts building safety audit in Melbourne CBD – ABC News

3. Fire safety in High Rise Buildings – ABCB

 

 

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Ali Asmar

Business Manager - VIC & SA

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As the most recent addition to the Safetyline Jalousie family, Ali is still coming to terms with the fact that a typical telephone conversation will often be answered with “You’re calling from Safety what”? followed by having to sound out and spell the name “ja-lou-sie” (it happens to us all). Born in Lebanon, Ali has moved around a lot over the years, living in Cyprus, Sydney for most of his Schooling, as well as China and Hong Kong. He currently resides in Melbourne where he spends a lot of time in his garden or doing some sort of work around the house. (Not too dissimilar to many other Melburnians following the onset of Covid). With a very obvious cultured background, Ali is warm and talkative and he’ll get you talking too.

Romile John

National Business Manager

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One of the Safetyine Jalousie originals, Rom (often mistaken for John) holds a great passion for the product. He says its “its innovative, a market leader and ever-evolving, very much like the company itself”. When you meet Rom, it is apparent that he is well-educated and well-travelled. Coming from a family of medical professionals, they moved around extensively and often. Last count was 125 countries. So nearly all of them! It’s really no surprise that Rom has mastered packing a weeks-worth of clothes and necessities into a carry-on bag. And when we say clothes we actually mean meticulously prepared outfits and accessories. When Rom enters a room, you’re sure to know it!

Adam Racomelara

National Manager – Partnerships & Strategy

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Adam is our strategist and big ideas generator whose somewhat reserved nature could have some mistake him as a bit of an introvert. But that’s only until this quiet thinker is given a whiteboard and a marker – and then there’s no stopping the dialogue! 7 Years in at Safetyline Jalousie, Adam is continually expanding on his knowledge of the construction industry and is incredibly driven in his pursuit to help create better buildings via the use of better products. When Adam’s not on his quest to improve Australia’s built environment he’s spending most weekends escorting one of his 4 young kids to birthday parties, sometimes multiple parties. He has some stealth survival tips for other parents currently in the same predicament.

Michael Cocks

Factory Manager

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Michael has become recognised at Safetyline Jalousie for his continually changing hairstyles (facial hair included). Buzz cut, undercut, dreadlocks, even a mullet. We’ve see it all. His current man bun could even be gone before we finish this sentence. Always up for a laugh, friends and colleagues love a chat with Michael, and his easy-going and approachable nature has earned him the respect of all staff. In fact, he even has a cohort of followers on the factory floor sporting his same hairstyles. Outside of work Michael has recently turned his attention to mountain bike riding. His very first ride ended with a pretty serious accident resulting in a deep puncture wound to his leg– it’s been a sore topic for his leg and his ego.

Jonathan Gueudinot

National Logistics & Production Manager

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Our South American Native, Jonathan is more simply and better known as “Chilli” (no need to try and guess his country of origin). After 16 years of military service, Chilli joined the Safetyline Jalousie team for what he describes as “a change of pace”. Although his average work day might look very different these days, there’s no doubt that Chilli’s previous experience has contributed in shaping a culture of commitment, community and comradery within the production team – the very important engine room of our company. Driven by a sense of accomplishment, in addition to running Safetyline Jalousie’s production line with military precision, Chilli has recently been studying hard to complete his Master’s Degree in Business and Logistics.

Mandy Saliba

Marketing Manager

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Mandy has been with Safetyline jalousie since day one so would technically be considered a geriatric in “Jalousie years”. Whilst her role has changed and evolved over her time with the business, one thing that hasn’t is the happy and fun, team culture that she says “continues to make each day at work a joy”. As a mum of two little ones, Mandy thrives on new challenges and a little bit of chaos. Although, as a self-proclaimed clean freak, she ensures that all forms of chaos are kept in a very neat and tidy manner. We’ve also observed that Mandy appears to have an inherent fear of colour and will almost only ever be seen in black or white (or sometimes grey if she is being really out there).

Lisa Spinks

Office Administration Manager

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As a busy mother of 4, Lisa is highly skilled in organising, delegating, and troubleshooting – the proficiencies which she also demonstrates in her daily management of the Safetyline Jalousie office. Lisa tells us that she lives by the saying “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger”. (No doubt she’s had to use this little piece or personal encouragement from time to time to deal with our infinite requests)! Always on the go, Lisa has a very active lifestyle and starts every day with a walk to the beach with her husband and two dogs. Of an evening she still has the energy to spare for star jumps and squats in her makeshift gym/ (our office) before heading home to her other full-time job as “mum”.

 

 

 

Nathan Rust

Founder & National Operations Director

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The younger brother of the co-founding sibling duo, “Nath” is the go-to for just about every technical, install, and manufacturing enquiry that comes via the business. Very early on, Nath’s product knowledge and problem-solving ability saw him organically take on the role of Operations, overseeing the design and management of Safetyline Jalousie’s behind-the-scenes work. When he’s off duty (and not answering a million questions), Nath enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 young kids. You’ll find him cheering on his son at weekend sports, enjoying the water somewhere along the Northern beaches and this lover of food is generally always planning his next big meal. Preferably a Lebanese banquet if anyone can suggest a restaurant he doesn’t frequent already.

Leigh Rust

Founder & Director

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Leigh aka “Wolfpack” is one-half of the driving force behind Safetyline Jalousie and comes with two decades of experience within the Australian manufacturing and construction industry. The multi-award-winning entrepreneur and father of three youngsters is a passionate advocate for supporting Australian-made goods and improving the built environment for future generations to come. Always up for a challenge, Leigh never sits still and is constantly pushing himself to test his physical and mental endurance. He’s given just about everything a go. From amateur MMA fights, triathlons, or personal development endeavours, Leigh stands by the motto, ‘I never lose, either I win or I learn’.

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Safetyline Jalousie Design Manual Version 3

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Safetyline Jalousie Design Manual Version 3