May 30, 2024
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By Michael Bleby

Since six months, the contractor of a $73-million public building project collapsed in mid-construction. He told clients that design flaws were to blame. But now, its client from inner Melbourne Council has referred to this as unproven.

Adco Constructions claimed in a March letter that they commissioned the report of a structural engineer who found them not to be at fault.

Adco’s Victorian State manager states in a March 7th letter entitled “Confidential Customer Statement” that, “The report conclusively concludes that this collapse was primarily due to a structural issue. There were no issues with fabrication or erection.”

To assist in the ongoing investigation, this report has been sent both to [Boroondara] Council [and] WorkSafe Victoria.

The Australian Financial Review saw the letter last week and it was seen by Boroondara Council. The Council responded with a strong statement on Friday.

Council disagrees with Adco expert conclusions about the reason for the roof’s failure, according to a council spokesman.

Adco’s implied statement that the steel fabrication was straightforward and the steel erection went smoothly is just not true at this stage.

Adco – one of many mid-tier builder attempting to get a larger share of Defence Department’s infrastructure budget, which is doubling – and one Melbourne’s wealthiest city councils broke out in public after almost one year of silence from all parties regarding the crash-like explosion that set back the project by years.

Adco declined comment. Williams Ross Architects – the design company for the recreation centre – has declined to make any comment.

Adco would also have relied on a consultant’s advice for any temporary structures used by it in the course of building the roofing structure.

WorkSafe Victoria investigates the collapse. The investigation could go on into next year. It is uncertain if it will publish its findings. The regulator is not allowed to comment on any investigations.

Kew Recreation Centre which collapsed over a month ago shows that unchecked lawsuits can easily spread.

Adco made claims regarding the project in March to Adco clients, and Boroondara Council knew about them but didn’t speak against them. This was only after Financial Review asked it about the Builder’s Letter.

Phil Dwyer said, “The council has an absolute responsibility to be transparent” about the project which was expected to double in price, according to Builders Collective’s national president.

Dwyer told reporters that this amount could easily double, to around $130-140 million.

It’s not fair that they don’t take responsibility and are not transparent. Commercial builders keep their business secrets. This is unacceptable.

ACIF (the peak body for the construction industry) has projected that in just three years time, more than $12 billion alone will be invested into prison and community facility buildings.

According to the spokesperson, the council was unable to comment on possible reasons for the collapse.

WorkSafe and Victorian Building Authority have conducted detailed investigations as to the causes of the collapse,” said he.

In light of the gravity of this situation, it would be unwise for Council to make assumptions about what the investigation will reveal and speculate.

The debris of the crash is gone and there are no more plans for a gym or swimming pool. Last week, council officials said they were examining the steel remaining and that plans to rebuild the building had been put in motion.

The council stated that a likely completion date would be “early 2026”. It pushed the earlier 2025 deadline back a year, which was the discussion date at the meeting in May.

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