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Wednesday 16 October 2019
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Las Alturas to be demolished

THE $26 million Las Alturas building in Morvant which houses 48 units and which belongs to the Housing Development Corpora­tion (HDC) will be demolished on Thursday, without units in the two four-storey buildings ever being occupied.

Demolition was deemed as the only feasible outcome after major cracks to the floor slabs, walls and windows of the buildings left the structure being deemed unsafe and posing a danger to anyone entering it.

Soil movement has caused significant damage to the buildings which are two of nine HDC buildings in the area. Residents who were supposed to get units in these two buildings were relocated to the other seven HDC properties which in total, contains 162 units.

Yesterday, during a site visit, HDC Managing Director Jearlean John described the impending demolition of the buildings, comprising 24 three-bedroom apartments, as a “big loss” to the Corporation’s housing programme.

Huge cracks on the exterior walls of buildings’ H and I, are clearly visible, giving them the appearance of having been hit by an earthquake. Caution tape has been placed around the buildings to warn persons from entering.

John said that when she took office in November 2009 she was told the buildings were “substantially completed or just about” but there were cracks on walls. The HDC wrote to the contractors asking them to rectify this problem. “But as days and weeks progressed the cracks became bigger and became a cause for concern,” John said. She said the contractor received more than 80 percent payment for the job and the HDC has withheld further payment.

“Until there is a determination as to liability you could not go forward and pay,” she said. Approximately $24 million out of $26 million project was paid to the contractor.

John said international and local experts were engaged to determine whether the buildings could be salvaged. The experts all said this was not feasible as one solution — driving piles to depths of 28-55 feet to attempt to stabilise the structures, would have cost the HDC $11 million, for each building ($22 million in total) and there was no guarantee this would have stopped the problem of soil slippage.

In the interest of “public safety”, a decision was taken to demolish, John said, adding that the HDC will move to recover fixtures and fittings where possible. Geotech Associates Ltd was responsible for a subsoil investigation report in October 2008, to define the foundation work. Malcolm Joab, director of Geotech, said yesterday that as construction proceeded, stress was noticed at the structures.

“Upon further investigations, we realised the faulting had extended all the way down to about 14 to 15 metres...which was quite abnormal to this particular part of Trinidad,” Joab said. He said further tests revealed an extensive amount of lateral movement at the site.

Joab said tests done before construction did not show any problem and that in the Northern Range, it was unusual for soil deposits to be “incompetent” at great depths.

Infrastructure work on the affected buildings began in December 2008, with construction starting by contractor China Jiangsu International Corporation.

Jianguo Yang of China Jiangsu told Newsday yesterday that the cracks started appearing in December 2009 and the HDC was notified and tried to take measures to deal with the cracks. By this date, the buildings were almost completed. “We tried to reinforce the structure,” Yang said.

With reference to land movement Yang said, “we observed nothing before the time we started work.” He said Geotech Associates Ltd had surveyed the site and, “everything was ok at that time.”

Regarding the balance of payment to the company, Yang said discussions would take place with HDC. Demolition of the two buildings will be done by Don Ramdeen Transport Ltd at cost of $3.3 million. The job is expected to take three to four months and John said demolition will not be done late at night or on weekends.

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