Architecture

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

by Stephen Cook

THE COMPANY accused of using suspect cement imported cheaply from overseas in its precast concrete products has gone into damage control mode as the spotlight shifts to its role in the whole controversy

With nine years in the business, Concretech New Zealand Ltd claim to be one of this country’s leading pre-cast concrete suppliers with “strict quality control systems… to meet any challenge, no matter how architecturally demanding.”

However, rhetoric is one thing – reality can be quite another.

The focus is now on Concretec’s role in the whole scandal after claims from industry insiders the company may have unwittingly used suspect cement from Vietnam in pre-cast concrete products it later supplied to several major construction companies.

That cement, which had higher than usual alkali levels, was imported by Drymix who control about five percent of the $400 million-a-year cement market and through Mitre 10 supply the domestic market with the highly-popular ‘Super Easy Mix In The Bag’ range of cement products.

In January, February and March this year Drymix imported tens of thousands of tonnes of cement, which according to their own test samples, failed to meet recognised industry standards.

Drymix supply cement to a company called Techcrete, who make readymix concrete which they supply to Concretec who supply precast concrete products to companies like Watts & Hughes and Ebert Construction,.

Both these companies are also facing questions after concerns that suspect cement may have been used in the $40 million Manukau District Court upgrade and Yashili’s $250 million plant at Pokeno.

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Phil Twyford shows us yet again why Labour are idiots

In the election the Labour party presented us with a concept for lowering power prices…removing competition from the market, and having state control.

It was an idiot idea, from the party of idiots. All around the world the plan has shown to be a complete failure, yet Labour ran with policy on the heroic assumption that they could command the economy to lower prices by removing competition.

Then in today’s Herald we have another Labour idiot mouthing off about another industry, but his solution is to increase competition, in stark contrast to their power policy.

Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford has raised concerns about anti-competitive building industry practices after the world’s second biggest wallboard maker said it was reviewing its structure in New Zealand.

Twyford is concerned about German-headquartered Knauf Plasterboard after it said its operation here was being examined. “A review of the Knauf Plasterboard New Zealand structure is currently under consultation,” Knauf said yesterday.   Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

Aerial simulation of Yashili's Pokeno plant

Aerial simulation of Yashili’s Pokeno plant

By Stephen Cook

THE WALLS are closing in on two giants of the New Zealand construction industry as more details emerge about how they turned a blind eye to concerns over potential structural issues with building projects running into the tens of millions of dollars.

The focus of the so-called concrete cancer controversy has now shifted to why two of this country’s construction industry heavyweights chose to do nothing when confronted with the news that suspect cement may have been used in at least two of their recent projects.

Up until now Watts & Hughes Construction and Ebert Construction have kept a safe   distance from the whole Drymix controversy, but last week both were forced to front foot the issue after claims suspect imported cement may have been used in two of their recent large-scale projects.

At first Watts & Hughes company director Rob Murphy said he’d never even heard of Drymix but then shortly afterwards acknowledged he was aware of issues surrounding high alkali levels in cement the company had imported earlier this year from Vietnam.

Murphy confirmed that Concretec had supplied his company with all the precast panels for the new $40 million Manukau Courthouse upgrade, but claimed there’d been no use of imported cement.

Concretec’s cement comes from Drymix.

“I am there weekly. I am with the consultants, the owners, the ministry, the whole shooting box and it’s news to me,” he said.

“There’s no issue. We are happy with the information we have received from our consultants,” he said before abruptly hanging up.

Ron McDonald of Ebert Construction, who built Yashili’s $250 million plant at Pokeno, also tried playing down the controversy.

He confirmed his company had subcontracted Concretec for the Fonterra job, but said where that company sourced its cement from was its business and not something he personally concerned himself with.    Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

Characteristic crack pattern associated with the alkali–silica reaction affecting a concrete step barrier on an US motorway

Characteristic crack pattern associated with the alkali–silica reaction affecting a concrete step barrier on an US motorway

By Stephen Cook

THE FIRST casualty of war is truth – even in the cement industry of all places.

In response to growing concerns over a potential multimillion dollar concrete cancer cover-up, the lobby group charged with representing the interests of everyone in the cement industry is continuing to side with the company at the centre of the controversy.

The move has baffled industry insiders who say the Cement and Concrete Association (CCANZ) should be taking affirmative action to alert the public to the issue rather than trying to pour cold water on a problem that could have disastrous longterm consequences for dozens of building projects across the country.

The public relations offensive is being driven by CCANZ head Rob Gaimster, who’s brought in the spin doctors to devise a plan of action aimed not at addressing the problem but at shutting down the controversy.

This week Gaimster has chosen to follow the path of least resistance by acting as an apologist for cement company Drymix, who have been strangely silent since the controversy broke.

This has angered industry insiders, who claim Gaimster and CCANZ are now completely and utterly compromised.

“I can’t understand why CCANZ have taken this position when there is clear evidence that a problem exists,” said one well-placed source.

Earlier this week Gaimster tried to play down the whole controversy, saying he was satisfied Drymix had taken sufficient steps to deal with the issue.

Despite test results to the contrary, he said to his knowledge there was no problem with any Drymix products from earlier in the year . He claimed the results with high alkali levels had come from only small test samples and when re-testing was carried out on larger samples they were within the appropriate range.   Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

Examples of Alkali-Silica Reactivity

Examples of Alkali-Silica Reactivity

By Stephen Cook

 

THE COMPANY at the centre of a concrete cancer cover-up hired private investigators to find out who was behind an anonymous flier calling for industry-wide action over the problem.

The move is the latest in a public relations offensive aimed at hushing up a potential multimillion dollar scandal which threatens dozens of building projects around the country along with the ongoing credibility of one of New Zealand’s largest cement companies.

The company at the centre of the concrete cancer controversy is Drymix, who control about five-percent of the $400 million-a-year cement market and through Mitre 10 supply the domestic market with the highly-popular ‘Super Easy Mix In the Bag’ range of cement products.

In January, February and March this year, Drymix imported tens of thousands of tonnes of cement which, according to their own test samples, failed to meet recognised industry standards.

The suspect cement – which has a higher than accepted alkali content – has since been used in hundreds of building projects right across the country, including the $40 million Manukau District Court upgrade.

However rather than alert their customers to the issue, Drymix instead hired private investigators to find out who was behind an anonymous flier demanding industry-wide action over the problem.   Read more »

[EXCLUSIVE] Concrete Cancer Cover-up?

An example of concrete cancer in load bearing structures

An example of concrete cancer in load bearing structures

By Steve Cook

DOZENS OF new structures could be under threat from a catastrophic form of ‘concrete cancer’ – with industry insiders warning the problem could end up costing millions of dollars over time.

The company at the centre of the concrete cancer controversy is Drymix, who control about five-percent of the $400 million-a-year cement market.

The company also has exclusive contracts with the likes of Mitre 10.

In January, February and March this year, Drymix imported tens of thousands of tonnes of cement which, according to their own test samples, failed to meet recognised industry standards.

The suspect cement – which has a higher than accepted alkali content – has since been used in potentially hundreds of building projects right across the country, including the $40.6 million Manukau District Court upgrade.

There are growing fears those structures could be vulnerable to deterioration caused by what’s commonly known as concrete cancer.- a reaction between the alkali and aggregate in the concrete.

Concrete cancer is caused by unusually high alkali levels in cement combined with moisture in the concrete and a reactive form of silica in the aggregate.

When this occurs it can end up causing serious expansion and cracking in concrete, resulting in major structural problems further down the track.

Overseas, especially in earthquake-prone areas, there have been cases where structures have been entirely demolished because of concrete cancer.   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Steel worker Carl Russell sits at 1,222 feet on top of a steel beam casually waving to the cameraman, who risks his life climbing into a crane to be able to make this photo. Empire State Building, 1930.

Steel worker Carl Russell sits at 1,222 feet on top of a steel beam casually waving to the cameraman, who risks his life climbing into a crane to be able to make this photo. Empire State Building, 1930.

Empire State Building

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$100,000 for a freakin’ curtain in a library, look no further for evidence of waste in Len Brown’s council

Mayor Len Brown and the Auckland Council have got us ratepayers into a dark, deep financial hole of debt.

How on earth can Auckland Council justify spending $100,000 of ratepayer money on a silk curtain for the new Devonport Library?

What? Yep, don’t believe me, read for yourself.

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If tax breaks are good for one sector why not others?

Labour decided that wood was a winner…and have proposed tax breaks to assist the industry.

The proposal excited no one except tribal Labour sycophants.

It has also managed to upset other sectors who are asking why not them? And they have a good point.

The ‘pro-wood’ policy announced by Labour at yesterday’s Forestwood conference is unfair because it disadvantages other building materials, says the body representing New Zealand’s diverse metals industries, Metals NZ.

Gary Hook, Metals NZ Chief Executive, says Labour’s policy is picking winners, rather than letting the market decide on the best solution.

“The idea that new government-funded buildings up to four-storeys high must consider wood as a building option undermines the technical expertise of structural engineers, architects and quantity surveyors.

“These professional advisers are the best people to evaluate the most suitable building materials based on the desired product performance and commercial outcomes for a particular project – not the government.”

The policy also feels like a step backwards to the days of more red tape, says Mr Hook.

“Forcing a wood option to be considered for all government-funded projects at the design stage is inefficient because it will simply add paperwork, delays and ultimately more cost to building projects.”  Read more »

All those years of teaching wets, of course it’s damp!

Surely it must come as now surprise that 3 houses at Auckland University that were the home of political studies were damp. They’ve spent decades teaching a bunch of wets, I’m surprised there isn’t an ocean lurking inside the buildings.

Anne Gibson reports:

Fehl said the political studies department had occupied the houses for some years but problems arose.

“There were various issues with the buildings for a long time but the work was triggered by the need to do seismic strengthening. At the same time, we had issues around dampness and the basements below street level needed remediation,” he said.  Read more »