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Worries over new concrete buildings safety

The Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK) says that the government allowed dangerous changes to be made to concrete standards last year lowering the quality and durability of buildings.

Cyprus concrete building safety worries
IT SEEMS there is no end to the stupidity and duplicity that goes on when it comes to ripping off the public – in this case home buyers.

A year after the government allowed concrete manufacturers to alter the standards of their product, the technical chamber ETEK said on Monday the result has been to lower the quality and durability of today’s buildings.

According to ETEK, under the previous standard it would take 30 to 40 years for a building to need repairs, whereas with the new one, repairs should be expected a lot sooner. The chamber called last year’s decision ‘a step backwards’.

Not only was it ‘blatantly outside scientific frameworks’ but it was ‘dangerous’. ETEK says it knows no other country with a hot climate that allows production to the standard in question – all in the name of avoiding extra costs.

If it is really true what ETEK is saying, these statements should set off alarm bells. Not only will people need to pump more money into their homes a lot sooner, but last time we looked, we still lived in an earthquake-prone region.

Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis, who was meeting ETEK on Monday, said afterwards the government would re-examine the alterations made to the concrete standard.

This will involve a study into the quality of concrete in Cyprus, and a second one into international scientific research on concrete standards. This is the typical response of a government minister after the ship has sailed. After that no doubt there will be a committee appointed and discussions will open with the ‘interested parties’, and all the while the same substandard concrete – by ETEK’s reckoning – will continue to be used. Do we need an apartment block to fall, killing a dozen people for the seriousness of the implications to be realised?

How many buildings have been constructed using this unacceptable standard in the past year, and many more will be constructed before the year-long study is complete, and probably even more before the decision is reversed – if it’s reversed.

Why were the experts not consulted beforehand? It will cost more in time and money to examine and reverse a decision that didn’t have to be taken in the first place. In any case haven’t the experts (ETEK) just told the minister that the concrete being used is ‘dangerous’ and ‘blatantly outside of scientific frameworks’? That is their job after all.

The construction sector is in enough trouble between the recession and the title deeds issue. Well done to everyone involved for adding another nail to its coffin.

Readers' comments

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  • @Mike – I was surprised – it cost me less than €60 to have my house added to the deed.

    I have no intention of selling either, but you never know how circumstances may change in the future.

  • Mike says:

    Nigel – You made the right decision, obviously. I have seen the photo’s, a good project and long may it serve you. It may be my imagination but I did note last October when I laid down concrete sub base for roads on our development that the product was somewhat inferior to what we have had in previous years. It might just be of course that it was a coincidence but it is still as laid as we will not be finishing off for at least another year but there are signs of crumbling as we left it rough in order to encourage adhesion of the reinforced top layer later on. I wonder! Fortunately it will only be used as a substrate and is not there to give any kind of structural integrity – just as well perhaps.

    As an aside I’m not sure I will bother to add the house and other constructions to the land deeds, it will never be sold, in fact wife wants a covenant on the land deed to that effect just in case kids or grandchildren in generations to come have an idea to raise cash. We shall see.

  • @Mike – Like yourself, my wife and I built our own house and I have to agree it was a no-brainer decision.

    We bought a plot of land in 1992 and finalised the design with our architect when we moved here in 2002. The contractor we selected from those who submitted tenders couldn’t have done a better job – a small family firm in Ypsonas.

    We sub-contracted the mechanical engineering works to a specialist company and, with the exception of the electrical sockets and switches, we sourced virtually all of the fixtures and fittings ourselves (and negotiated a good discount with our major supplier).

    I guess the overall cost, including professional fees for our architect, structural engineer, quantity surveyor, etc. was about 40% less than buying ready made – the build quality was much better and we got precisely what we wanted.

    If you’re interested I kept a photographic diary as the building work progressed. You can find some of the photos I took at Custom property in Cyprus.

    (Athough we took delivery in 2004 and our architect did all that was necessary to get our house added to the deed we had for the land, we didn’t receive the updated Title Deed until last year).

  • Adrian says:

    I have just thought out why the government is not extending the lease on the old airport beyond the present 19 years – they don’t need to because if its built with the new concrete it will have crumbled and collapsed long before that!! Problem solved, now the title deeds ?

  • Adrian says:

    It does not require an technical study (known as stalling), there are far more educated people in other countries who are experts and would have told them before they made such a stupid and ill advised ruling, I suspect that there was some vested interest pushing this through. How about sorting out the existing problems as fast as they changed the concrete regs.
    .

  • UBoat says:

    This sounds like a classic case of …. well lets lower the standard so that we can set up repair companies to rip people off again and also this will give us more work in the maintenance and repair sector…..

    Very Stupid and short sighted.

    Have they forgotten that Cyprus is in an earthquake zone? standards are set for very good reasons. For SAFETY to protect and prevent and to go forward and improve.But alas Cyprus seems to like to remain in the past and go backwards…..

    Why do the government need to set up an investigation ??? They allowed the better standards to be reduced in the first place ?

    Again you could not make it up …

    Regards

    UBoat

  • Mike says:

    Does this come as a surprise? I am amazed at the absence of Newton tests on batches of concrete and the absence of vibrating pokers to promote strength in the finished pour. Boring subject I know but of immense interest to me as I am building my own. If there is an interest see – The New Concrete Standards – An Introduction to EN 206-1.

    As well as the reduced quality in Cyprus, the temptation to add more water than is advised in order to make the concrete workable in the heat of day further diminishes its compressive strength. Add to that the porosity due to compromised make up coupled with re-bar too close to the surface and you end up with an abomination that will require significant amounts of repair and maintenance within a very short space of time. And friends ask why I choose to build my own rather than buy a ready made – from my point of view it is a no brainer and worth all the hassle and bureaucratic nonsense – although sometimes I wonder then I look around at the abominations classed as constructions around me and I know I am doing the right thing.

  • Jim says:

    Previously, only a fool would buy a property in Cyprus that had no title deed. Now only a fool would buy any property built since 2011, with or without a title deed.

    If the property market was terminally ill before, the idiot who dreamed up this idea, has killed it.

  • Ronny says:

    Would this mean that this sub-standard concrete has been used in the construction of the recent big projects in Limassol as well? The Limassol Marina complex? The “Twin Towers” (Olympic Residence – 12 floors)?

  • Pete says:

    And does this mean the Cyprus Consumer Protection programme will swing into inaction? By sanctioning substandard building materials and practices does that make the government (or the minister responsible) liable for any and all repairs?

    Just when you thought Cyprus was no longer capable of screwing things up…

  • Clive says:

    What a surprise.

  • andyp says:

    Good luck to the thousands of Chinese buyers. Yet another small problem to be aware of.

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