Purchasing an “off-the-plan” apartment or house is a risky business, according to Archicentre Australia, with increasing evidence of substandard detailed design and construction.

The national architect’s advisory service says it is finding more examples of poor work at pre-settlement assessments commissioned by customers.

“Off-the-plan purchases are like a game of poker for buyers,” said Archicentre Australia director Peter Georgiev, “owing to the uncertainty in build quality and basic functional amenity.

“It doesn’t matter whether the property is being purchased to live in or as an investment, these issues can impact on lifestyle quality as well as re-sale value. As well, second and third time round buyers can be caught up in this circumstance.”

He says further concerns of building management were echoed in the ABC’s 7.30 Program on Monday, December 18, that highlighted the compounding matter of building quality and maintenance issues seemingly not being addressed in a number of new apartment blocks in Melbourne.

Most commonly, Archicentre Australia assessments have demonstrated particular issues relating to balconies and showers.

“We have concerns about correct detailing of balcony floor levels and waterproofing. In time, these defects can and do affect the built fabric and inherent construction. In cases of timber framed construction, bottom plates of wall frames can deteriorate affecting wall stability – not to mention the stability of cantilevering balconies. In concrete framed buildings the problem is more intractable – particularly where balcony floor levels are at or higher than adjacent internal floor levels.

“Our assessments are also finding far too many showers that do not drain to waste, with step-less showers running backwards to adjacent carpeted or timber floating floors.”

Peter Georgiev says the dangers posed by unsafe balconies were tragically demonstrated in the fatal weekend accident at a rented property in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster East.

“This highlights the need for thorough regular checks of all balconies, no matter how new or how they have been constructed.

“With the number of balcony collapses around Australia in recent years, it is obvious that owners are not taking responsibility for maintenance and safety issues of their own or tenanted homes, which means legislation will more than likely have to be drawn up to make assessment mandatory,” he says.

“Particularly where an apartment is tenanted – its ‘out of sight and out of mind’ – so these defects can unwittingly become an issue for property investors.”

“In the meantime, all owners must check their balconies and if any areas of concern are identified, experts must be engaged to assess and rectify the issues.”

Signs that should raise alarm bells include:

  • It feels unsteady or bounces underfoot;
  • There are signs of cracking or bowing;
  • Framing does not extend back into a load bearing wall or beam;
  • It has loose or inadequate fixings;
  • It looks like it hasn’t been well maintained;
  • It hasn’t been painted for a while;
  • There are signs of timber rot, rust or water damage;
  • There’s creaking or flexibility in joists or beams;
  • There are heavy items that might put the structure under pressure; or
  • It looks like it was an informal, or unapproved, construction.

Peter Georgiev says Archicentre Australia has a residential assessment service carried out by  experienced member architects who can identify areas of concern with balconies and with off-the-plan apartments or homes and recommend the appropriate professional course of action.

“With new residences or additions to existing dwellings the deep-seated issues of build quality and basic functional amenity can be overcome by using the expertise of architects throughout the design and construction process,” he adds.

For more information go to www.archicentreaustralia.com.au


This media release has been written and distributed by:

Archicentre Australia

Peter Georgiev, Director

Level 1, 9 Strathalbyn Street,

Kew East, VICTORIA, 3102

Phone: 1300 13 45 13 | 03 9859 9950