Time up for Gold Coast high rise as concrete cancer warnings loom
Brisbane Times, 15 June 2015
Dozens of 40-year-old Gold Coast high rise apartment towers built in the 1970s face million-dollar concrete cancer repair jobs similar to the $215 million in repairs needed by Brisbane's City Hall. In 2013 the 20-storey Iluka Surfers Paradise high-rise – built in 1972 – was demolished after concrete cancer destroyed the hotel's structural integrity.
Concrete cancer – also known as concrete spalling – begins when steel reinforcement within a concrete slab begins rusting.
When steel rusts it expands by five times causing concrete to rot and flake.
East Coast Building director Rick Wild told the Gold Coast Bulletin on Saturday the problem "had escalated" in recent years.
"On average we get two or three calls a week to repair concrete cancer at different buildings," he told the Bulletin.
The problem is being seriously examined by Queensland's strata title authorities including Strata Community Australia.
In January 2015 – and after the demolition of the Iluka resort – Strata Title Queensland president Simon Barnard suspected the problem was widespread.
"I would expect that dozens if not more strata titled properties in Queensland have the beginnings of concrete cancer and are going undetected," he said.
Griffith University Head of Architecture Professor Gordon Holden warned other high rise projects had similar problems.
Professor Holden said high-rise towers built in the 1970's had an average lifespan of around 40 years.
"That means it's timely to look at the overall condition of older strata title buildings and to specifically look for signs of concrete cancer," Mr Barnard said.
Steve Kidson is the body corporate manager of Focus Apartments at Surfer's Paradise, one of the dozens of Gold Coast high-rise towers now facing urgent concrete cancer repairs.
Concrete cancer repair costs to Focus Apartments have ballooned from $1.5 million to $2.7 million according to a report from Gold Coast engineering firm Kavanaugh Consulting Engineers and confirmed by Mr Kidson.
"The amount of damaged concrete was always in the building," Mr Kidson said.
"It had not been fully identified because concrete spalling is internal damage not always visible on the exterior of the building," he said.
"Its full extent is never discovered until repairs and excavation of damaged areas commence."
Mr Kidson said Focus Apartments unit owners intended to fully repair the building.
"If we ignore the advice of our engineer, and Focus were to be allowed to deteriorate to the extent that Iluka was, and become structurally unsound and condemned, the value of the home or investment evaporates," he said.
"The committee has no intention of allowing this to happen. To do so would be negligent in ignoring the total extent of our damage and not proceeding to completion."
He said a meeting of unit owners this week would decide to repair Focus Apartments.
"To not do so would be negligent, with the end result being that parts of the building left without repair would be extremely dangerous, with the potential for concrete chunks falling from the building."
Gold Coast councillor Lex Bell told Seven News the Gold Coast City Council was not the watchdog of the building industry, but agreed the problem needed addressing.
"I don't believe Council would take it upon itself to go and be a policeman," Cr Bell said.
"But we would probably support a submission to the state government to have an officer appointed to assist bodies corporate."
Corrosion can be repaired once it is identified.
Brisbane City Council closed Brisbane City Hall, for two years over 2012 and 2013 and spent $215 million on its concrete cancer repair bill.