34 Union Street - a really nice place to call home, close to everything, even the airport, but it could be a lot better

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Our building was constructed by a person who appeared to be competing for the "Worst builder of the year" award for 2011. He won by a mile, didn't turn up to accept the prize and left the owners to clean up the mess.

In the AGM minutes for 2013, at a time when there was financial uncertainty about coping with our problems, is the note:

"The members present also spoke to the importance of ensuring that the building is well maintained and presented and that future budgets need to ensure that this is the case."

The Owners Committee and property manager MIA threaded a way through litigation, consultant services, contractor hiring and more, eventually receiving a $2.45 million award from VCAT litigation. Then began the series of major repairs now almost completed.

Preoccupation with the major repairs is no reason to abandon the duty implied in the earlier paragraph. Our Owners Committee and MIA, our retained manager, have failed to keep this in mind.

The building is neither well maintained nor well-presented and has accumulated and continues to accumulate many shortcomings. Some are minor but intrusive to the eye and easily fixed; others are more difficult and will remain with us for some time. Together they have made our building “shabby” and must be fixed before we take that sigh of relief of a recovery well managed.

The following list is not complete but will give some guidance on work to be done before we can be confident that our managers MIA and the Owners Committee are doing their job.

Shabby: In poor condition through long use or lack of care. OED

Stand on the footpath and look at our entrance
The meter box and fire hydrant doors that frame our front entrance are of different styles and colour.
  • SCS carelessness - SCS was the prime contractor for most of the repairs.
  • No immediate action except see the note on the meter box door below
Move closer to the entrance.

Left hand door frame of the meter box has sagged about 7mm - Poor construction by SCS. (Sherwood Construction Solutions was the contractor for much of the construction repairs.)

  • The original repair made no attempt to fix the dropped stile. It only caulked the gap and painted it.
    Requires better fastening of RH stile and then re-caulking. Cost low. Time less than 1 hour and materials <$5
  • A recent crude repair is unacceptable and must be redone.
Large crack between the outside ramp and the internal floor. Earlier this was the cause of an expensive lady’s heel damage and is unsightly. It was intended to be replaced by a narrow grid across the full entrance way. Should it be “lady’s expensive heel”?
  • Poor original construction.
  • Clean out the groove to at least 40mm. Fill with cement taking care to leave textured surfaces clean. Protect until set. Time 1 hour. Materials <$10
The paving at the LH corner between the LH glass panel and the LH wall fills with water to form a shallow triangular puddle that grows to leak past the left edge of the LH moving door to form another puddle in the interior. There is a risk of damaging the internal wall panelling. Front door modifications created the exposed area.
  • Fix 1. A narrow, shallow groove cut into the paving from the glass and across the front of the meter box will be unobtrusive and stop the puddle from forming.
  • Fix 2. (Preferred) Check the level and if appropriate fill with self-levelling cement. Time 2 hours. Materials $26

Through the glass door one can see the small triangular areas where the original zig-zag wall was removed. SCS failed to remove the white sealer that remained. I have since removed some of it “while investigating”. - SCS carelessness.
  • Remove all signs of this sealer, lightly sand and spray with poly-something and there will be little sign of the old wall.
  • Move planters away from the wall to reveal the inner “triangles”. Use a scraper to remove the old gap filler. Sand the unpolished areas carefully and not excessively. Shield existing polished floor and spray with varnish. Time 3 hours. Material $10
Move across to the garage entrance
First sight is a very dirty garage door with a relatively recent oil streak on the LH side. - Negligence.
  • A careful inspection will show that there is dirt in the small holes as well as on the surfaces. Strong detergent, light scrubbing and cleaning from both sides met with some success on a couple of small areas. Pressure cleaning, with detergent and scrubbing of both sides should do the necessary job. (Do the back side first) Persist until the door is clean!
  • A recent visit indicates some corrosion and an alternative solution may be needed.
Bands of green mildew up to 60cms wide appear along the pavement adjacent to the walls of the garage entrance and approaching the front doors. - Magnitude depends on the weather.
  • Pressure cleaning and anti-mould solution needed. Possibly combine with garage door clean.
On the right and at the street line is a small metal access box. It has sunk or was wrongly placed about 2 cms below the paving surface. It collects dirt and has been yellow striped as a tripping hazard. - Original builder incompetence.
  • Re-position the box at the proper level. Saw-cut a rectangle in the concrete around the perimeter and remove concrete between sawcut and the metal box. Fix to proper level and re-concrete.

Also note the gap between the paving and the metal trim under the window. This very poor finish is under both shop windows.

On your left side the paving outside the door to Shop 1 has a large crack. This is inside our property line and is unsightly. Probably a result of the general incompetence of the original builder. The paving has also subsided abouit 2 cms on the left of the osteo entrance.
  • Keep on a schedule of jobs when there is other work in the area.
  • In both shops the join at the bottom of the window to the concrete paving is poorly finished. Advice needed in case expansion is an issue. Fix.
The boundary between our building and RMIT on the east side of Shop 2 is marked with a little over a metre of rough cyclone wire fence. It needs to be improved. A plain panel for example, would provide shelter for the forecourt of the shop.
  • Discuss with RMIT.
When the garage door is opened a couple of tripping hazards are revealed. There is a pit with cast iron and concrete lids and one of these has not been closed properly. It protrudes about 1.3cm and is the reason for marking it as a tripping hazard. Laziness or incompetence of whoever last opened the lid.
  • Lift the lid and clean away any obstruction to proper closing.
There are 2 hazards caused by plastic pipes with lids protruding slightly above floor level. - Original builder incompetence.
  • Investigate whether these can be lowered. (AHB can certainly fix the one near the wall. The brass lidded one needs investigation)
Look towards the lobby door to the carpark. On your left is the entrance to the front stairwell. The surrounds and the stairs to level 1 have been filthy since the building was new, probably because of trades access to a lunch room. Some cleaning has been attempted but not sufficient.
  • It must be cleaned. Tri sodium phosphate has been suggested as effective for these situations.

Now move to the rear lift
Rough concrete immediately outside the lift door. Original builder incompetence.
  • Requires cement levelling compound or cement adhesive and cement. Combine with front entrance puddle fix.
The threshold of the door from this area to the courtyard is rough and unsightly. Original builder carelessness.
  • Easily fixed. Use appropriate cement bonding agent and cement or use a stair tread.
Some time back an OC member mentioned that this entrance should be “improved”. Most of residents' traffic passes from the lobby or car park to either of the lifts or the stairwell entrances. Both are unsightly through shabbiness, dirt or both.

For less than $5,000 both areas can be given a facelift.

Now go back to the lobby

When standing at the doors from the lobby to the path to the town houses, look down and to your left you will see the concrete foundation placed by SCS to accommodate the 1 metre extension of the west wall needed to satisfy fire regulations. It’s neither parallel to the wall nor the footpath. If you look back from outside the door you will find the sill of the west side glass panel not fully supported because the concrete foundation was broken away by SCS when preparing for the 1 metre extension. When pointed out, the solution was to fill it with garden soil so the fault was concealed.

The lack of parallelism and the missing concrete is more crap work from SCS.

  • Fix.
Move to Level 4.

The lift entrance is one of three that took about ten years to have the lift level adjusted to the level of the decking you can see. The door frame on the west side was not fully inserted by the contractor and the caulking to seal the job consequently omitted. Management regarded the job as complete and it was paid for.

At your feet is Modwood decking discoloured by mildew along its full length.

Look to the east at the wall and you see the timber framed, originally fibre-sheet clad wall that allowed water to leak into most apartments on that level.

Work on the wall such as repairs to windows, painting below L4, etc. must be done by workers abseiling (suspended by ropes). The top edge of the wall is "non load bearing" and the original builder had not installed secure anchor points on the roof.

Secure anchor points are now installed but how does an abseiler overcome the non-load bearing top edge? Gantries and track are unsuitable. A redesign of the gantries could solve the problem. SCS ignored the AHB advice and the subcontractor delivered a system that would obviously not work. Abseilers drape their ropes over the non-load bearing top of the wall.

This would seem to be a breach of good safety practice. Since the top of the wall is non-loadbearing, abseiling must cause some damage.

Stage 1 of our major works was the replacement of leaking cladding and rotten timber with Lysaght metal cladding. The quality of the remediation is poor. Along with the dozens of curious white marks shown, are annoying loud dripping noises after rain and early morning expansion noises.

It is my opinion that the L4 cladding issue will revisit us particularly when considered in conjunction with the access comments and the known roof problem.

A further example of the poor workmanship is the replacement of the aluminium balastrade. An attempt at correction was only partly successful.

Take a short journey to L3 and look at the perforated metal screening under the Modwood decking of L4. This screens wiring for overhead lights and provides a cover for miscellaneous items under the decking. It is covered in blotchy patches of rust and discoloured original surface treatment.
  • Very unsightly and a durable solution must be found.
  • The exit light housing is also very dirty.
Now move to Level 1 and stand at the front lift doorway.

You are looking at an expanse of poorly laid tiles that were part of Stage 2 of the remediation. At your feet you will see very rough and amateurish grouting and a narrow grating. This was installed because after the initial effort, water flowed into the lift well.

As you proceed along this level you will see many signs of poor quality tiling. Bad selection of a tiling subcontractor by SCS

• The rough grouting at the lift door must be repaired along with several other rough locations.

• IMHO The tiling is so bad they should do it again. (unlikely)

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