Cracks were sighted in the wall at the time the hoarding was installed

Images published by the Herald Sun dated December 12, 2012 show that the brick wall in Swanston Street that collapsed from behind the hoarding. These cracks may have added to the series of structural failure contributing to the walls collapse, killing three innocent people.

The exposed plywood panel hoarding  as shown on the right of the photo above had broken away when the wall collapsed. They were propped up by steel tubing anchored into the ground by star pickets, similar to support provided to a realestate advertising billboard.  Compare this to the hoarding on the western side of the site which has solid bracing anchored by large concrete weights. The wooden hoarding was attached to the brick wall with dyna-bolts.  Any movement of the plywood structure under wind load would have placed added rotational pressure on southern edge of the brick wall.  The cracks that have been identified would have further compromised the walls integrity

A permit is required under City of Melbourne Local Laws and Building site guidelines to construct a hoarding (Maximum height 2.4m) and the site should have been subject to inspection by Council Engineers.  The dead load weight of the hoarding, which was higher then the height permitted, added significant weight to the wall and would have contributed to the walls collapse.

Had the City of Melbourne inspected the site prior to and after the installation of the new hoarding the noticeable design faults would have been identified and the walls collapse could have been avoided.

The Lord Mayor and Council officers have gone underground refusing to comment on the walls collapse for fear of being held partly responsible and liable.

Calls have been made for the City Council to release all documents related to the CUB site and initiate a full internal and independent review of Councils legislative and building guidelines.

The Wall: Site Analysis Summary

Trevor Huggard, Civil Engineer and former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, interview in the Age is worth reading to gain some insight into the Swanston Street Wall Collapse and the sites history, but it does not tell the whole story which hopefully will unfold in the fullness of time.

Trevor Huggard has a long standing interest in the CUB development site favouring it for the construction of Melbourne’s State Museum  and the gateway to Melbourne’s “Knowledge precinct” unfortunately this was not to be.

The Swantson Street CUB site has been hexed.  It has been one controversy after another.

It represents the worst of Melbourne’s planning and city development and the Melbourne City Council’s greatest failure.

The death of three innocent people last Thursday is just another sad chapter of the sites history.

Site Analysis prior to the Tragedy

Analysis of the Swanston Street CUB site conditions show a number of glaring flaws in its structure, design and layout all which may have combined to cause the collapse of the masonry wall which killed three innocent pedestrians on Thursday Match 28

The building site’s hoarding along Swanston Street was reported to be 3 m tall, some 600mm taller than the maximum height of 2.4m for building site hoardings outlined in the City of Melbourne construction guidelines

Google Street View 2009 showing the southern edge of the brick wall before the plywood hoarding board and advertising sign was attached  View Larger Map 

The southern edge of the masonry wall was unsupported. There was no return or vertical bracing at this location. This was the weakest point and most likely the point of structural failure

The 25 meter plywood hoarding structure to the left of the Southern edge of the brick wall was subject to wind forces and would have acted as a lever against the brick wall’s edge causing it to rotate.

The  recorded WSW wind speed in Melbourne on Thursday, March 28, was 76Km/Hour.

The location of a three-story high shipping container advertising structure on the right side of site, overlooking the CFMEU offices, would have deflected any wind gust concentrating its forces on the the hoarding board to the left and Southern edge of the brick wall .  The increased applied pressure at this point could have caused the wall to rotate and collapse.

The hoarding was bolted to the Brick wall without any structural control joints.  (Break points designed to allow each structure to act separately under load),  This would have caused the whole wall to topple in a peeling motion.  Had there been a structural control joint separation between the left hand side hoarding and the Southern edge of the brick wall the hoarding only would have been effected.

It was a combination of all the above: Height, site layout, physical obstruction, poor design and construction of the hoarding itself and magnified applied pressure that concentrated on the wall at its weakest point.

Any first year architecture or engineering student would be able to identify and determine the faults that contributed to the walls collapse

The media and the City of Melbourne need to talk to Professor Bill Melbourne (That’s his real name) from Monash University Engineering Department

A Department of Engineers and City of Melbourne engulfed in a "Cone of Silence"

Six days have past and still no information or comment by the City of Melbourne as to why the Swanston Street wall collapsed.

The City of Melbourne has a whole department of Structural Civil Engineers costing rate payers millions of dollars, surely they could shed some light and informatuion on this tragic event?

The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, has failed to comment as as other City Councillors. All are encased in a “Cone of Silence” 

Cr. Stephen Mayne, who is not known to be shy for words, has failed to make any comment on the wall, not even a tweet of condolance or any form of explanation

Green Councillors Rohan Leppert and Cathy Oake are also engulfed in the “Cone of Silence” as are the remaining City Councillors

I would hate to see them in action during a “real crisis”.

Meanwhile questions remain unanswered as to if a permit for the hoarding cladding the fatal wall and been issued and whether the design and construction of the plywood hoarding had met Council guidelines and public safety requirements

Calls for City of Melbourne to commission an independent analysis and review of the CUB site conditions

The City of Melbourne has been called on to commission an independent structural engineers report of the design, construction and layout of the Swanston Street CUB “Swanston Square” development site

Anthony van der Craats, community activist and blogger, said “An independent review should determine the full impact of the site conditions and the design and construction of the fixed plywood hoarding fencing.  The site analysis should include a wind tunnel test to ascertain if the placement of the ship containers used as an advertising bill board concentrated wind forces on the hoarding and masonry wall”

The review should also consider the role of the City Council’s statutory building planning permit administration so as to ensure that all legal requirements and procedures had been complied with and if need be recommend any changes to local laws to ensure public safety on construction sites.

“There is ongoing concern that the design and construction of the wooden hoarding had facilitated the collapse of the masonry wall which killed three  pedestrians in Swanston Street on Thursday”.

City of Melbourne guidelines list a maximum height of 2.4m for building site hoardings. Any hoarding and temporary construction should be able to withstand a live wind loads in accordance with design standard  AS 1170.2

The hoarding in place on the Swanston Street site was reported to be 3m high and may have been constructed without the necessary permits or Council inspection .  The Southern edge of the masonry wall was not adequately supported to withstand lateral forces to prevent its collapse.

The design and height of the wooden hoarding, its faxation to the masonry wall, and the placement of the ship containers could have all worked in conjunction to concentrate wind forces on the wall causing it to collapse.

Wall of Silence

The Council must respond to community concerns,.  The media, in attempting to contact Council Officers seeking answers to questions in relation to the sites administration, have been meet with a wall of silence as the council administration goes into lock down amidst concern that the City of Melbourne may be subject to litigation and a compensation claim.

The City of Melbourne has a greater responsibility to the safety and the general public than its professional standing.  Being proactive in commissioning an independent report would be the first step to restoring public confidence in the council’s administration

If the Melbourne City Council is at fault putting its head in the sand will only make matters worst

CFMEU raises concerns over Swanston Street Wall hoarding

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) have raised concerns over the design and construction of the Swanston Street former CUB site.  The Unions concerns mirror those expressed express in this blog.

Questions are being asked if a planning and development permit had been issued by the City of Melbourne and the site inspected according to the Council’s Local laws and guidelines on building and construction site safety.  According to the Councils published information a permit is required to construct hoardings  which should be renewed every 12 months.

It is believed that the hoarding which was fixed to the masonry wall may have contributed to the walls collapse.  The hoarding would have increased the effect of the wind loading in a levering action motion causing the wall to collapse.

The new hoarding, that was constructed in 2012, was taller than the permitted height of construction site hoardings and extended up to 600mm above the height of the lowest part of the masonry wall, well above the 2.4 meter height limit for building site hoardings.

This along with a 25 meter section of plywood hoarding connected to the left of the masonry wall are the prime suspects for the walls collapse which is under review.

City of Melbourne Building Regulatory Requirements

Below is an extract of the regulatory requirements outlined in various documents by the City of Melbourne (See their web site and links provided) This is not an inclusive list and readers should undertake all necessary research in determining the what provisions may apply or not apply to any project within the city of Melbourne.

This  is guide only. Information is subject to change


City of Melbourne Main web site:




1.1 This Local Law is called the “Activities Local Law 2009”.
What are the objectives of this Local Law?
1.2 The objectives of this Local Law are to:
(a) promote a physical and social environment free from hazards to health, in
which the residents of and visitors to the municipality
can enjoy a quality of life that meets the general expectations of the community;
(b) control noise, behaviour, liquor consumption,animals, spruiking, busking,
advertising sign, works and obstructions on roads, street trading, the use of toy vehicles
and other activities;
(c) protect the use of public places and control activities in or near them;
(d) provide for safety in public place


1.11 The words identified in italics throughout this Local Law are intended to have the

following meaning …

” includes a part of a building and the whole or any part of a structure, temporary building or structure, fence, gate, wall, pavement light, outbuilding, service installation, mast, pole and other appurtenance of a building.
Building works 
“includes works, activities, events and practices for or in connection with the construction, alteration, demolition or removal of a building


Construction Management Plan
” means a description of the proposed strategy to be implemented in relation to the building works to ensure:
(a) public amenity and safety are maintained;
Fencing Vacant Land
2.12 An owner or occupier of vacant land which is wholly or partially unfenced must, as soon as practicable after being directed to do so by the Councilor an Authorised Officer, fence or cause to be fenced all or that portion of the vacant land which was the subject of the Council’s or the Authorised Officer’s direction 
Compliance with Code
7.1 A person must comply with any obligation imposed by the Code. Compliance with the Standards
7.2 A person to whom the Standards apply must comply with any obligation imposed by the Standards


Types of construction permits

The City of Melbourne issues many different permits for building and construction activities including:

Permits for safety and amenity

 Hoarding screens must be constructed of closely boarded timber or plywood between 1.8m to 2.4m in height to secure a building site and form a barrier against noise, dust and debris. Chain wire and corrugated iron fences are considered unsuitable for this purpose.

Hoardings are to be designed to withstand wind loads to AS 1170.2 with counterweights as necessary to prevent overturning. In addition hoardings adjoining excavations are to be designed to withstand a lateral line load of 0.75 kN/m applied at a height of 1 metre from the base and suitably guarded by barriers to prevent vehicular impact.
Hoardings and barricades must be in good condition, free from graffiti and maintained to the satisfaction of the Council. They should be painted in a uniform colour preferably white

Construction Management Plan guidelines

The City of Melbourne requires developers and builders to carefully manage excavation, demolition and building works within its municipal boundaries.
To achieve this, builders and developers are required to submit a construction management plan that takes into account all relevant aspects of demolition or building work.
The guidelines address a range of issues to be managed onsite, including:

All public domain protection permits such as hoardings, gantries, cranes, etc are issued by the City of Melbourne’s Construction Management Group (Site Services)

1.5 Matters for Consideration
Fencing of Site
1.5.1 The site should be secured by a fence, hoarding or other suitable barrier constructed in accordance with Public Safety and Amenity – A Code of Good Practice at Construction Sites.
1.5.2 Ensure hoardings, perimeter fencing or other site barrier systems do not allow climbing or unauthorised entry.
1.5.3 Before and during building work, all excavations must be fenced so they do not pose a danger to life or property to the satisfaction of the relevant building surveyor.
1.5.4 Hoardings, barriers and other perimeter fencing must be suitably lined to limit public viewing to designated viewing areas. This will ensure pedestrian flow is not impeded and adequate site-public interaction is accommodated. Refer to the Public Safety and Amenity – A Code of Good Practice at Construction Sites.

1.5.16 Developers and builders must ensure there are no tripping hazards from the hoarding or perimeter fencing on nearby footpaths. Electrical, plumbing and other services extending over footpaths must be covered over, and pedestrian and disability access facilitated by a ramp. Ramps must have a non-slip surface, a handrail, and a minimum gradient of 1:14 unless the existing topography of the street or road requires some variation to this ratio

1.5.32 Hoardings must be designed to reduce the likelihood of unauthorised bill postings and graffiti through the use of wire mesh guards, warning notices and/or public art. Graffiti and other posters or stickers on hoardings and fencing must be removed on at least a weekly basis, or immediately if it is offensive in nature

1.6 Applicable legislative references, local laws, etc:
a. Building Act 1993
b. Planning and Environment Act 1987
c. Melbourne Planning Scheme
d. Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
e. Activities Local Law 1999:
i. 6.1 (Permit required for road interference)
ii. 8.1 (Notice to commence building work)
iii. 11.2 (Prohibition for vehicles remaining on street)
iv. 11.3 (Interfering with pedestrian sign)
v. 11.5 (General obstructions)

The Wall: Foundation of disaster and applied pressure

Memorial tribute to the victims of the walls collapse

The Swanston Street Square development site is under investigation to determine exactly why the wall had collapsed but most of the focus appears to be around the wall’s attached hoarding and the its unsupported southern edge.

Remaining concrete foundations of the masonry wall section

The foundations left behind appear to be intact and show no signs of rotation or sinking. This could not have been a point of failure.

Structural steal support on northern end of wall
where the wall remained in tact

The Nothern end of the wall that was left standing following the accident was supported by large steel piles that edged the walls driveway opening. The integrity of this part of the wall was not compromised.  It is the southern end that was the fault line and was relatively unsupported point that is of the greatest concern.  The walls collapse and point of failure appears to have been located here.

Photo showing the wooden hording following the collapse

Between the edge of the masonry wall and the building to the South was a 22 meter opening where there was no masonry wall, just the hoarding boards.  The hoarding in this section was supported by steel tubular poles that were lightly braced and fastened to the masonry wall to the north.  If the wind had caught this open section of the hoarding then it could have conceivably increased the rotational pressure on the unsupported masonry wall’s southern edge levering it over to point of collapse. It would only have had to moved a few centimeters to destabilize the wall and shift its center of weight.  The attached fixed hoarding bringing down the full length of the wall as one unit.

Rescue crews work to stable the site. Photo shows the section of the wall that collapsed and the
two edges of points of failure  The section of the wall on the right was supported by the steel column. The hoarding section on the left shows the point of failure in southern non masonry part of the wall
2009 Google Street view of the wall prior to the installation of the recent hoarding in 2012
Click on the above photo to access Google Street view

Typical connection detail of a
hoarding board to a tubular steal pole
(Photo not from the Swanston Street site)

Add to this the increased wind pressure applied to the hoarding that extended above the lower part of the masonry wall the lack of lateral structural support for the left edge and it all worked together to send the wall crumbing down, trapping the three innocent victims who were walking past .

It is also conceivable that had the hoarding been constructed in such a way that it would not have added applied load to the wall, if it was not one piece, it may not have brought the wall down. 

Debris from the hoarding left on site
Masonry wall foundation elevation

The absence of additional piers or lateral support to the southern end of the wall provided the weakest point of failure. If there was a return or solid bracing, as exists on the bluestone wall on Bouverie Street end of the site, then the wall could have withstood the live load forces that were applied.

According to the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan Guidelines:

Item 4.1 Hoardings – General Requirements
Hoarding screens must be constructed of closely boarded timber or plywood between 1.8m to 2.4m in height to secure a building site and form a barrier against noise, dust and debris. Chain wire and corrugated iron fences are considered unsuitable for this purpose.


Hoardings are to be designed to withstand wind loads to AS 1170.2 with counterweights as necessary to prevent overturning. In addition hoardings adjoining excavations are to be designed to withstand a lateral line load of 0.75 kN/m applied at a height of 1 metre from the base and suitably guarded by barriers to prevent vehicular impact.

Hoardings and barricades must be in good condition, free from graffiti and maintained to the satisfaction of the Council. They should be painted in a uniform colour preferably white

Online commentator Butterpaper also suggests that the existence and location of  three story container stack used for advertising the site project may have deflected the 76Km winds recorded on the day concentrating the winds force at the weakest point on the wall and hoarding structure, the southern edge of the masonry wall

 Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper

The Wall:CCTV Camera’s last vision

Could this camera hold the vision to the collapse of the Swanston Street Square wall, killing three people?

Located on the wall of the RMIT Design Hub building  on the corner of Victoria Street and Swanston Street, the CCTV camera points directly along the footpath adjoining the Swanston Square development site.

If this camera was recording vision at the time it would most certainly have captured the last moments before the walls collapse.  Exactly what it would show is yet to be determined.

There are other CCTV cameras on the hotel opposite the construction site. It is understood that police have already inquired about their footage but they were not focused across the road and as such did not capture the walls collapse

Melbourne’s Wailing Wall: Death Toll Increases to Three

The death toll over the collapse of the Carlton United Brewery wall in Swanston Street now stands at three following the death earlier today of the young woman who initially survived the accident

Questions are being asked as to the design and construction of the recently added wooden hoarding attached to the masonry wall and the possibility that it may have acted as a lever increasing the wind loading and pulling the wall to collapse.

The City of Melbourne is responsible for issuing permits for the design and construction of building site hoardings.   It is unclear if a permit was issued for the new hoarding or if and when the site was inspected prior to its collapse.

A CCTV camera located on the adjoining RMIT building and pointed along the Swanston Street footpath may hold the key and vision of the walls collapse.

Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper

Melbourne’s fated wall collapse was planned to be demolished

Redevelopment plans for the former Swanston Street CUB site have been on the drawing board for decades with numerous designs and owners.

The wall that collapsed was retained at the bequest of the City of Melbourne Urban Design department headed by architect, Professor Rob Adams.

The CUB site was the subject last month to an archeological dig prior to work on the new construction  which was scheduled to commence in April 2013

Building company Grocon payed $1 million for the six-week dig, which ended on March 1. The dig was a Heritage Victoria requirement before Grocon redevelops the land.

Sadly the wall which collapsed on Thursday had been standing in a dilapidated state and was scheduled for demolition as part of the new approved design.

There is speculation that the recently attached hoarding to the left of the wall may have caught the wind which then levered the masonry wall to collapse

The site is subject to a coroner and work safety structural report

Melbourne’s Wailing Wall: An accident waiting to happen

The collapse of the wall at the old CUB Swanston Street site was avoidable yet it was an accident just waiting to happen. The wall had remained in situate for over 20 years deteriorating as each year passed.  The City Council Engineering and Urban Design Departments knew that the wall was not stable and they failed to monitor it and ensure its safety.

The Swanston Street site was a significant site in Melbourne  the book end of Melbourne’s main street.  The shrine at one end and the CUB sign at the other.  It was one on five constructions sites that were left standing in a demolished state by the former Minister for Planning, Robert Maclellan .

The main heritage building was  the 1860’s bluestone building on Bouverie Street. Most of the original bluestone building  was demolished but the western wall was maintained, supported by solid structural bracing.

Of a lesser heritage value was the red brick wall along Swanston Street. With over twenty years of exposure to the elements the structural integrity of the wall was compromised. The Swanston Street wall had not been braced to the extent of other walls on the construction site. 

The CUB site was one of the alternative sites  put forward for the site of Melbourne’s Museum and the favorite site of Trevor Huggard, former Lord Mayor.  It was a site that required a signature development and the Museum, if located on the site, would have made a significant contribution and focus to what is the gateway to Melbourne’s “Knowledge precinct”.  It was one of three preferred sites for Melbourne’s Museum. The others being the Federation Square and the original site where the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings (Jeff’s Shed) now stands.

The site which was first demolished in 1989. Robert Maclellan who came to office in 1992 failed to ensure that construction and development of the site proceeded.  The Kennett Government was not prepared to commit public funds for the sites development

The site has remained a bomb site ever since

The Swanston Street Wall became a poster board and a blight on the City. A monument to the city’s failure in planning and development. The City of Melbourne, who had insisted in the walls retention , required that the wall be boarded up and the graffiti and posters removed.  Sadly this may have contributed to the walls collapse.

The wooden hoarding would have added to the dead load placed on the structure and when part of the wall began to collapse it would have brought down the rest of the wall with it. The hoarding  also hid the wall from the Street and restricted the ability to monitor the walls structural integrity. It may have even been the cause for the collapse as the poorly supported left hand section of the hoarding may have caught the wind and acted as a lever in pulling the masonry wall over.
Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper

This was not an accident that can be dismissed as being an act of god..  The winds, whilst high, were not that extreme and the wall should have been able to withstand a live wind load much greater than the force of wind recorded in the city on Thursday.

It is clear there was a collective failure of  responsibility to ensure the public safety of this site.  The developer, the construction engineer, site manager, building inspectors (past and present) all share liability along with State Government and the City of Melbourne Engineering and Urban Design Departments.

This was an accident that should not have happened. An accident that should have been avoided.  The lives of two innocent pedestrians lost and a third person suffering serious injury.

The Coroner will need to investigate the deaths of the two pedestrians and work safety will prepare a report of the engineering and structural design elements that contributed to the walls collapse.

The Coroner must go beyond the engineering science and look closely at the administration and successive failures of the City of Melbourne and other authorities who should have been on top of this issue long before the walls collapse. It must look at administration, planning, reports and events in the lead-up to the sites demolition and up to when the wall collapsed.

It needs an investigation equivalent to an Air-crash investigation but without a black box.  A photograph taken on Google street view in 2009 indicates that a CCTV camera is installed above the real estate agency opposite at Grocon site at 488 Swanston Street and there is a CCTV camera hanging off the adjoining RMIT Hub building looking along the Swanston Street footpath

The last thing we want to see is a protracted legal case with those responsible for this tragic event denying liability or responsibility in order to avoid or limit claims for compensation.  Excessive delay in reporting and proportioning responsibility for the accident would only add further injury to those whose lives where effected 

When Tragedy hit Innocent Victims

Tragedy hit Melbourne just before 3pm on Thursday March 28 when a brick wall on a construction site in Swanston Street collapsed, killing two students and seriously injured a third pedestrian who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Not since the collapse of the West Gate Bridge has Melbourne seen such an event, an event that is reminiscent of an war zone, earth quake, tsunami, flood or a terrorist bomb blast overseas.

The wall collapsed when a gust of wind in Melbourne hit and blew it over, killing the unsuspected pedestrians.

Clearly the wall was not supported or engineered to withstand the lateral forces that eventually brought it collapsing down.  The building site was left in an unsafe condition for years whilst developers and city planners toiled over what to do with the site. There was insufficent bracing or reinforcement to secure the wall in a stable position.

Excavations, heavy rain and weather conditions all played a roll in the wall’s collapse.

Questions are being ask who was responsible for the accident, Developers, City Planners, Work Safe Building Safety Inspectors, City Council Engineering Services?

The accident will be the focus of a Corner’s Court and work Safety investigation. It must not be just listed as a freak accident due to extreme weather conditions. Clearly there was negligence in administration.  This must not be allowed to happen again.  Safety guidelines, development plans  and inspection procedures must be reviewed and changes made to enforce public safety standards.

Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper