30. 2002 – Danger of collapse

For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. 


1. Fill it with concrete
2. If it was my shop
3. That you can understand
4. PJ informs Council
5. The structural symptoms
6. Danger of collapse

1. Fill it with concrete

The building was old and the render had cracks. As we peeled the loose render in the parts that were cracking and coming off we found big cracks in the brick wall. I invited Mr Johnston for the second time and raised my concerns. Mr Johnston expressed his surprise when he saw the cracks and loose bricks in the common wall near the front wall, which he was not aware of back in 1990 when he supervised the rebuilding of the front wall because the wall was covered. We followed Mr Johnston’s advice and in June 2002 we filled the crack in the common wall with concrete and we rendered it.

During this visit Mr Johnston raised his concerns about changing the usage of the premises and making structural changes. I told Mr Johnston that we do not have any such intentions. The ceiling in 70 per cent of both floors was removed because of its fireproof status and also because of the condition of the electricity circuits. Parts of the brick walls inside the building were exposed after we removed the aluminum studs that were connecting the masonite boards to the walls. The masonite boards were five centimeters from the walls and they covered exposed bricks to around two meters high. Above this the bricks were rendered with around one centimeter of old, thin render.

We also removed the two-centimeter render that was from the top of the cover to the ceiling height. The masonite boards were five centimeters from the walls and they covered exposed bricks walls on both sides of the front room. The cracks above the existing opening in the back and in the internal cross wall of the ground floor became evident. We wanted advice on making the four door openings safe in these two walls while also widening the door opening to the kitchen and changing the location of the middle opening door in the cross wall in a way that would allow a separate door to the stairs that leads to the first floor. Two weeks after Mr Johnston’s visit to the site he issued a structural detail report and drawings of the structural details.

31.05.02 Evos to Mr Johnston CD 1-5, 112-6

“Subject: authorization to wall changes at 39 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW”

Following your site inspection last week, Please find attached drawing of the two walls as they are currently, and changes to them as agreed”.

I have marked them as following: Existing front wall. The changes needed to front wall.   Existing back wall. The changes needed to back wall.

We required an Engineer’s approval to these changes.

Needless to say, we are planning to open to the public very soon and need this approval A.S.A.P. Do not hesitate to contact us in this regard at any time directly on..:”    

07.06.02 Mr Johnston to AB – CE 1-2 , 117- 8

“These structural details are provided following a visit to the site on 24th May 2002, when internal renovation were being carried out, and also a request by fax on 2nd June 2002 to confirm the verbal advice given at the site regarding opening in two walls. Other verbal advice was also given, as follows:-

It is understood that the current Classification of the building are first floor, Class 4, resident flat, and ground floor, Class 6, retail shop or restaurant, etc. There should be no change in these uses of the building until an application has been submitted to the Building Authority (Council) and any required works carried out and approved.

The proposed changes to wall openings are structural alterations, and the Building Authority (Council) should be advised of the proposals, and any requirements complied with.

The above advice was given so that the writer does not become a party to unauthorized changes of use and/or building work, and the writer accept assurances that the lessees do not intend to carry out any such changes or work.

These Structural Details show alterations to structural walls which will not reduce the stability of the building, but they do not constitute to carry out the work, which can only be given by the Council”.

2. If it was my shop

On or around early June 2002 Mr Paul Bekker visited the site for the first time. Mr Bekker was Mr Pasqualle’s structural engineer and Mr Pasqualle suggested that he be invited to take a look at the site. After looking around Mr Bekker made it clear that there were structural problems and in response to my question as to whether it will be possible to open the café given the current structural problems he said words to the effect of: ‘‘if it was my shop I would not”.

After receiving the Structural details from Mr Johnston we wanted to get a second opinion from Mr Bekker. In July 2002 on his second visit Mr Bekker and Mr Pasqualle advised us to inspect the foundations by digging to the foundation level. Following this advice we removed the flooring of the ground floor and we dug 60 cm to foundation level and the digging revealed tree roots in the foundations.

Paul Bekker Engineering Design Pty Ltd CG 1-2, 122-3

“Accredited Certified structural engineer”


3. That you can understand

On 19July 2002, Evos and I showed Mr Johnston roots that we had found when we dug a 70 cm diameter and 60 cm deep hole in the ground near the meeting of the cross wall with the side wall in the large room. Cracks and structural problems were evident throughout the interior of the building and we also showed Mr Johnston another big crack in the common wall where it meets the back wall. The crack became evident after we removed the gyprock in this section of the wall.

Mr Johnston said words to the effect of: “fill it with concrete and render it over as you did with the crack near the front wall”. This time Evos decided a few days later to fill the crack in artistic way by creating a design ‘look’ of two separate walls that are connected with concrete belts. Mr Johnston gave me a hesitant OK to my question about removing the hallway wall of the first floor. This wall was a non-weight bearing wall and therefore its removal would not have been a structural change. Following our meeting, Mr Johnston sent me a letter in which he informs me that he declines to offer any further advice.

22.06.02 Mr Johnston to AB – CF 1, 119

“Alteration to No 39 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW.

When I visited the site on 27th February 2002/ you have gave me a copy of Drgs Nos DA/CC 01 and 02 showing proposed alterations, and I understood that you intend to submit a DA to Council for the work.

At the next visit, on 24th May 2002, internal renovations were being carried out, and I advised you that you should inform the Council and obtain authorization for any structural work and/or change of use. This was confirmed in my Structural Details dated 7th June 2002. However, at site again on Friday 19th July 2002, you talked of doing some work ‘pre DA’ and other work under the DA. You had carried out the following work, apparently without authorization;

-removed ceilings, ground and first floors,

-first floor walls, large opening in one wall, another removed

-first floor near fireplace, tops of floor joists cut away, thin layer of concrete around fireplace, -render removed from walls. As stated before, I do not wish to become a party to unauthorized building works. It seems that you are not able to understand my verbal and written advice, or do not intend to comply with it. I therefore decline to offer you any further advice or to make any further visits to the site at your request. I hope you will find an Engineer who you can understand and whose advice you can comply with

I have prepared a statement to inform the Council and the owners’ agent on what has occurred, as seen on my visits to the site. A copy is enclosed for your information”.

4. PJ informs Council

Mr Johnston sends me a copy of a letter to Leichhardt Building Department and for some time I did not think that he had really sent it.

22.07.02 Mr Johnston to Leichhardt Council CF 2-3, 120-1

“Alteration to no 39, Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW.

This is to inform you of work done at that site, as seen by me on the following site visits.

Visit on 27th February 2002. This followed a request by Mr A Bodenstein, of Morden Paint, and Mr Primost was also present. I was given a copy of Dregs. Nos DA/CC01 and 02 by Magnum Projects showing proposed alterations and additions to the building, and understood that the lessees intended to submit a DA for the work.  I was asked for verbal advice regarding proposed openings in walls, and followed this up with a hand written note, dated 5/3/02, see attachment 1. This advice was only given on the understanding that the work would be incorporated in the DA/CC, and was not intended to give approval for any work to be done without such authorization.

Visit on 24th May 2002. This was also requested by Mr Bodenstein, and Evos was also present.  Internal renovation works, including removal of all render and replacement of some fireplace brickwork, was being carried out. I was asked for advice regarding openings in two ground floor cross walls.  I became concerned that unauthorized work may be carried out, and advised the lessees verbally that Council should be informed of proposed changes and any requirement complied with. On 2nd June 2002, I received a fax asking me to confirm the verbal advice regarding the wall opening, see attachment 2. I prepared structural details dated 7th June, 2002, attachment 3, showing the opening and also confirming the verbal advice regarding the need to obtain Council authorization for the work.

Visit on Friday 19th July 2002. Again requested by Mr Bodenstein, two others were present, I did not obtain their names. Proposed large openings in the internal cross walls and the side walls facing the park, had been marked by tape, and I was asked what structural work would be necessary to enable such opening to be made and also about the removal of first floor walls. The following work had already been carried out, apparently without approval: ceilings removed, first floor and ground floor, first floor internal cross wall, large opening in first wall from front, and second wall from front removed, first floor near fire place, tops of floor joist cut away and thin layer of concrete cast around fireplace. Render removed from walls.

I am concerned that this removal of finishing and internal wall is reducing the overall integrity/stability of the building, and that further unauthorized work may be carried out.

The lessees appear not to have understood or complied with my verbal and written advice, and I am declining to give them any further advice, see attachment 4.”

5. The structural symptoms

First Floor

Slope to the back: the wooden floor slopes severely from the front of the building to the back. It is at least 200 mm higher at the front of the building than it is at the back of the building.

Slope to the west: the wooden floor slopes severely from the sidewall to the common wall. It is at least 130 mm higher near the sidewall of the building than it is near the common wall of the building.

Loose joists and insufficient support: some of the wooden joists that are supporting the floor are loose in the wall because of insufficient filling material. The wooden floor is not sufficiently strong to support heavy weights mainly because of the distance between the joists.

Back Wall – North, 5 m long, 8 m high and 3 openings

Large crack: cracks in the building, around 4 cm wide are evident in this wall. These cracks are clearly visible from the outside and are around the doorway and the window opening above it.

Another two large cracks: two large cracks extend from both ends of the wooden lintel above the doorway. These cracks are clearly visible from both sides of the wall.

Common Wall – West, 20 m long, 8 m high

Meeting with the front wall: the common wall is disconnected from the south front wall. At the place where the front (south) wall joins the common wall the bricks are completely loose and there is an empty gap of more than 5 cm. This has created in the first floor a vertical crack visible from the floor up to the roof. This crack at this part has been filled with concrete and was rendered following the advice of the Mr Johnston.  

Meeting with the back wall: the common wall is disconnected from the (north) back wall. At the rear section of the building there is a vertical crack where the back wall joins the common wall. As a result the rear part of the building is separated from the main building. This crack was mostly filled with concrete following the advice of Mr Johnston.  

Front Wall – South, 5 m long, 8 m high, 1 shop facade

This wall is not in alignment with the front wall of the adjoining property no. 41 G.P.R. The neighboring front wall leans outwards towards the street and is tied from the outside for structural support.

Sidewall – East, 16 m long, 8 m high, 3 windows 

The wall has extensive cracking in a number of places. Most of the cracks are about 6 to 8 meters from the base to the top of the wall vertically through both floors. The cracks vary from 3-50 mm wide and they are much more visible from the interior than from the exterior because they were filled and painted over on the outside of the building. The biggest cracks in the sidewall are on both sides of the fireplace especially beside the ventilation ducts and near the adjoining cross wall.

Bend and bowing 

There is a bend in the wall 4.5 meters from the front of the building and the wall is bowing. The bend begins from the bottom of the wall and extends vertically in a straight line up to the roof. The bend also extends horizontally outside and inside the building boundary line of the sidewall.

Encroachment to the east 

Around the bend and the bowing the wall encroaches on the boundary line of the building line to the east by at least 14 cm.

One leg of the fireplace missing 

The lower left side of the fireplace has 80 cm gap in the brickwork. This gap I repaired as an emergency precaution.

Cutting for electrical wiring

The wall has a cutting about 80 cm wide and 10 cm deep in the brick that was used for electrical wiring. The cutting extends horizontally along the wall to the cross wall and it also rises vertically to the ceiling of the ground floor.

Lack of mortar 

There are also many places in the interior walls where mortar is missing. On the outside of the wall there are places where the paint is missing and cracked. In those places there is no filler to protect the mortar from water penetration.  

Cross Wall – Bricks, 5 m long, 8 m high

Lintel one:the cross wall has two door openings. The metal lintel above one doorway was loose and bricks were missing.

Lintel two: the other door had a wooden lintel.  


There are three large cracks 2 to 6 cm wide in the cross wall. One crack runs from the metal lintel to the east wall. Another crack extends from the end of the wooden lintel to the ceiling. The third and largest crack in the cross wall extends from the base of the wall to the ceiling.  


There are also cracks and loose bricks under the stairs.  

Roots penetrate the sidewall 

A tree is growing immediately adjacent to the sidewall of the building. This tree is five meters high and there is a double trunk, each being approximately 40 cm in diameter. The base of the tree is less than 90 cm from the sidewall. The roots of the tree have raised the ground around its base next to the wall. (Leichhardt Council removed the tree in early 2003 following my request).

Roots penetrate the foundations 

The roots of the tree have grown through the foundation of the sidewall. Inside the building an opening was dug adjacent to the footings to the full depth of the footing. In the room adjacent to the tree a 38 cm thick root penetrated between and under the footing stones.

Roots penetrate the cross wall 

Tree roots are also evident in the front room of the ground floor.

Roots penetrate under the fireplace 

One of the root’s branches has penetrated the fireplace foundation.

6. Danger of collapse

At the end of July 2002, following the structural findings, I thought that the premises were unsafe to be occupied and in early August 2002 the project manager Gilad and his girlfriend Matti and also Ms Anna Sendler another employee of Morden Paint moved out of the two rooms on the first floor which they had occupied for the previous five-to-six weeks.      

On 1August 2002, I submitted a request to Leichhardt Council to see the building file and later that month I travelled back to Israel for two months to see my family. Before my departure I notified Mr Voukelatos that the work is in progress and I left Mr Lesham in charge of my business affairs during my absence.

In September 2002 Gilad viewed the building file at the Council and he notified me that he found some kind of an order that was issued in 2000. At that point of time I was still in Israel and I realized that the task of fixing the structural problems would require a big and comprehensive D.A. process and I asked Gilad to get quotes from Architects.

05.08.02 AB to Mr Voukelatos EA 1, 183

“As you can see the work in progress. Obviously there is a lot more to do.”

09.09.02 Mr Shelsher to Gilad FF 1-3, 241-3

“Total Architectural Fees   $11,000 (excl. GST)”

29.09.02 G.H & Associates to Gilad FE 1-11, 230-40

“Stage 1       $3,300  
Stage 2       $13,200  
Stage 3       $7,700  
Stage 4       $86 per hr”

In mid October 2002, after my return from Israel, I requested that Mr Bekker inspect the building and he issues a report that states that he believes the sidewall to be in a fragile state and liable to collapse.

30.10.02 Mr Bekker to AB – CH 1, 124

“Re: External sidewall39 Glebe Point Road, Glebe Dear Sir,

At your request we inspected the property to assess the cracking to the external sidewall to the building at this address. Immediately to this building lies a Council park with a tree planted within 900m on the wall.

The building is a some 100 year old terrace building of brick and timbre construction. The footings to the building are sandstone blocks.

The wall has extensive cracking in a number of places particularly adjacent to the tee around opening in the wall window ducts etc. The larger cracks are in both sides of the fireplace, around opening in the wall window ducts and near by the adjoining cross walls. There is also a slight bend in to the wall.

An inspection opening was dug by you adjacent to the footing on the full depth of the footing. In the room immediately adjacent to the tree large tree roots are visible projecting between and under the footing stones. Tree roots are also evident in the adjacent room.

As per our verbal advice we believe the wall to be in a fragile state and liable to collapse.

The type of construction used in this building i.e. brick walls with timber floor and ceiling joists spanning across the full width of the building, provides insufficient lateral support for the sidewall in its state of disrepair and diminished support at foundation level. The wall is in danger of collapse.

To rectify the wall we recommend that the wall be taken down and new footings be installed on piers taken down to a suitable bearing material”.

The piers should be tied together with a concrete beam and the brickwork rebuilt into a defect-free vertical wall.

Once re-erected for extra stability the wall should be tied or braced to the internal party wall on the opposite side of the building.

We suggest these work to be carried out as soon as possible.”