Owners in nine blocks told to check slabs over suspect engineering

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A digital impression of one of the blocks concerned

Owners in nine different apartment blocks have been ordered to have their building structures checked because of concerns about the way they were constructed.

The blocks, in Darwin and nearby Palmerston, range in height from two to 12 storeys, were all built over the past five years, and have been identified after scrutiny by the Northern Territory government of the work of a private, registered structural engineer.

And that means time is running out for some of the 200 owners affected – like most other Australian jurisdictions, the NT has a six-year time limit on structural defect claims against the builder.

According to a story carried by ABC news earlier this month, the NT’s Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics first received a complaint about the engineer’s work in 2017, after a worker on a building site raised concerns about the transfer slab being put in place.

The issue relates to the reinforced concrete transfer slabs that distribute floor loads on to support posts and columns.

“The concern is that … the columns that hold up the slab may push through,” said Mark Meldrum, the department’s director of building control.

Apartment owners, through their body corporates, were told they had seven working days to engage a structural engineer, who then had another week to devise a short-term solution to ensure the buildings met Australian standards. Body corporates then have a further 30 days to devise a long term remediation plan.

However, the department stressed the nine buildings (which they declined to identify) had not been deemed unsafe and residents could continue to live in them while they were being fixed.

“Some of the buildings have been standing for five years, and at this stage and we’ve had no complaints about the buildings,” Mr Meldrum told ABC News. “So at this stage we believe the buildings are holding up well.”

The suspect structural engineer is expected to be referred to the Building Practitioners Board “for an inquiry in alleged misconduct pertaining to a pattern of non-compliance with the National Construction Code,” the department said.

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