A previous client of SCE purchased a rural block of land in an area shrink / swell soils, and then engaged a structural engineer and builder to construct a long [about 30 m] single-storey residential building. Within months of the building being complete, considerable brickwork movements occurred, together with some associated brickwork cracking.
In the light of the client’s previous good experience with SCE in geotechnical matters and the potential for the problem been caused by the shrink / swell soils, SCE was engaged to investigate and report upon the problem.
Subsequently, and after the detailed SCE site inspection and consideration of the efficacy of the building works, SCE determined that the principal cause of the cracking and building movement was ‘brick growth’ of the long building. SCE also advise the client that:
- Although some joints had been provided in the brickwork, they were not effective and could not accommodate the significant brick growth associated with light coloured bricks.
- The way in which the steel arch bars associated with the joints had been constructed, was such that relative movement of the brickwork on either side of the joint could not occur.
- The joints in the brickwork did not comply current technical practice; in particular the joint and articulation details in the publication by Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia.
Subsequently, an after a site meeting between SCE and the builder, the builder voluntarily undertook the necessary repair works and the matter resolved without litigation. The builder also stated to SCE that his learning experience on this project would now ensure that he did not make a similar mistake in future.