Bella Vista trial: ‘Systemic defects’ were signed off, court told


An engineering expert brought in to review “serious structural issues” with evacuated Bella Vista houses has revealed the homes’ construction failed to match what was in their building consents, let alone meet the New Zealand Building Code.

However, a court has heard they were signed off by one of the defendants now facing charges in a judge-alone trial following the failure of the sub-division development.

Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed
Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed “serious” concerns. Photo / File

Bella Vista Homes Limited, The Engineer Limited, their respective directors Danny Cancian and Bruce Cameron, and bricklayer Darrel Joseph are defending a raft of charges in a judge-alone trial following the evacuation of 21 houses in various stages of completion in The Lakes in March 2018.

The charges were brought by Tauranga City Council and relate to the defendants allegedly carrying out building works which were not in accordance with the Building Act, in particular a building consent.

The court heard on Thursday that overstressed retaining walls, deficient foundations and misplaced or missing reinforcing steel were among issues identified in a structural review of the beleaguered Bella Vista homes that were urgently evacuated in 2018.

Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018. Many have since been removed, leaving empty sites. Photo / File
Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018. Many have since been removed, leaving empty sites. Photo / File

The council brought in experts such as senior civil and structural engineer Colin Jacobson to assess the Aneta Way and Lakes Boulevard homes, which he described as being at “significant risk of failure” with “systemic defects”.

As part of the brief, Jacobson and his team were asked to check that the reinforcing steel in each dwelling’s foundation walls matched what was shown on the consent drawings. At 297, 297a, 299, 301, 301a and 307 Lakes Boulevard, they did not, he said.

“In my opinion, the … defects should have been plainly obvious.”

Jacobson told the court subsequent testing of all houses revealed myriad structural issues, including misplaced reinforcing steel that would have seriously undermined the structure’s integrity. Some walls had no reinforcing steel at all, others were weakened by up to 54 per cent, he said.

Many other issues that were non-compliant were also identified, including inadequate or missing roof bracing; inadequate bolted connections between the top of concrete block walls and supported timber floors; inadequate fixings between the steel beams spanning over the garage areas and the supported timber floor; no nails in steel joist hangers; first-floor sheeting inadequately nailed to supporting floor joists; and column hold-down bolts with inadequate side cover to the edge of the foundations, the court heard.

Jacobson said he was concerned.

The court heard that at 301a Lakes Boulevard a retaining wall which was meant to be 1m high was actually 2.6m high and unable to handle a soil load, resulting in a wall that was “significantly overstressed and at risk of failure”.

Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed
Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed “serious” concerns. Photo / File

At 307 Lakes Boulevard, the front retaining wall was built to 2.6m when the consent specified 2.3m. The court heard this wall was subject to soil pressures 27.8 per cent greater than it was designed for and would likely fail.

Vertical reinforcing bars at 299 Lakes Boulevard were found to be spaced at up to 850mm compared to the specified 400mm as shown on consent drawings. Homes at 301, 297 and 297a also had misplaced reinforcing steel and deficient and non-compliant retaining walls.

When questioned by Judge Paul Mabey QC, Jacobson said in some examples, walls would lose 75 per cent of their strength and would fail if an earthquake struck.

Jacobson continued, describing faults pertaining to water tightness such as gaps in basement blocking that were so wide he could see daylight through them.

Jacobson told the court council inspectors relied on Cameron’s expertise and as an engineer he signed off PS4s (producer statements supporting building consent applications) for the houses, indicating they were safe and compliant.

However, issues at 297, 301 and 307 Lakes Boulevard should have been identified during pre-pour block wall inspections and the contractor instructed to rectify the defects, before approval to grout the walls was granted, the court heard.

“In my opinion, the … defects should have been plainly obvious to Bruce Cameron the inspection engineer as these are basic defects which are immediately obvious to an engineer when inspecting the walls,” Jacobson said.

“It is clearly the responsibility of the inspection engineer to check and approve the placement of the wall reinforcing steel …

Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed
Homes built as part of the Bella Vista development at The Lakes were urgently evacuated in March 2018 and experts who since assessed the homes have revealed “serious” concerns. Photo / File

“From my inspections of the two-storey Bella Vista dwellings, many of the structural defects we noted were similar on each house … These similar structural defects and issues noted in the majority of the two-storey Bella Vista dwellings located on Lakes Boulevard can be classified as systemic defects.”

Under cross-examination yesterday afternoon Cancian’s defence counsel Bill Nabney told the court it was entirely possible that in some homes the alleged misplacement of reinforced steel was actually an amendment to the consent plans approved by the designer.

Nabney put to Jacobson: “If the designer gives the okay to then go ahead to go with the [steel] in that position, is it okay for the blocklayer to then go ahead and lay the block?”

Jacobson replied: “Yes, you just need to follow that up with the documentation.”

“That would be minor enough to be just between the engineer and builder and included in the site inspection. It would carry the category of amendment, then go to the council for approval,” Jacobson said.

Nabney then put to Jacobson: “So in the situation where the [reinforcing] bars were found to be out, you would find the engineer on-site, contact the designer, get the word it’s okay to pour, they do the pour – despite the process you’ve just described not yet being followed through?”

Jacobson said: “Yes. It would more or less be a rubber-stamping process.”

Jacobson’s evidence followed that of geo-tech engineer Michael Trigger, who testified on Wednesday about how dangerous some of the homes were and the urgent need to evacuate them ahead of an impending cyclone.

Jacobson also declared that he had been the subject of a complaint from Cancian and Cameron to Engineering New Zealand, who accused him of corrupt practices and conflict of interest.

Trigger was also the subject of an identical complaint.

Both complaints were dismissed.

The trial continues.

The charges: Who gets how many and what are they?

Bella Vista Homes Ltd

– Seven charges of breaching building consent in relation to 5 Aneta Way and 307, 297, 297a, 299, 301 and 301a Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; wall heights exceeding approved plans; timber cladding or cladding system not constructed as per plans, consent specifications and NZ Building code – specifically incorrect formation of external corner and failure to provide position for drainage; and cut ends of timber weatherboards not fully primed.

Danny Cancian, director of Bella Vista Homes Limited

– Seven charges of breaching building consent in relation to 5 Aneta Way and 307, 297, 297a, 299, 301 and 301a Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; wall heights exceeding approved plans; timber cladding or cladding system not constructed as per plans, consent specifications and NZ Building code – specifically incorrect formation of external corner and failure to provide position for drainage; and cut ends of timber weatherboards not fully primed.

The Engineer Limited

– Six charges of breaching building consent in relation to 307, 301, 303, 307 and 297 Lakes Boulevard in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground bearing capacity; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

Bruce Cameron, director of The Engineer Limited

– Six charges of breaching building consent in relation to 307, 301, 303, 307, 297, and 301 Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate ground bearing capacity; misplaced reinforcing steel; inadequate wall footing; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

Darrel Joseph, blocklayer

– Three charges of breaching building consent in relation to 297, 299 and 307 Lakes Boulevard, in particular: foundation walls not constructed as per approved plans; inadequate wall footing; misplaced or absent reinforcing steel; and wall heights exceeding approved plans.

Maximum penalties for each charge are fines of up to $200,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, a fine of up to $10,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence has continued.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: