Australia’s peak body for the strata sector is warning that an “epidemic” of concrete cancer that has blighted the Gold Coast could also hit other parts of the country, costing millions in damage to property assets.

Strata Community Australia (SCA) said the problem of concrete spalling has become so severe in Queensland that the state government is mulling the introduction of additional regulation to stymie further damage to building.

One major example of the problem is the Gold Coast’s Focus Apartments, which found itself on the receiving end of a $2.7 million bill for damages incurred as a result of concrete spalling.

SCA is now calling for New South Wales and other state and territory governments to adopt measures to prevent spalling from becoming an issue for other Australian cities as well.

“We have noticed cases in several other states where owners corporations and property owners have been faced with millions in costs, and years in ongoing repairs,” said SCA CEO Kim Henshaw. “It’s really important that this ‘epidemic’ on the Gold Coast serves as an example for Governments everywhere.”

Henshaw notes that cities in Australia are particularly susceptible to spalling because of their predominately coastal locations, with 85 per cent of the population residing within 50 kilometres of the sea.

“Whilst concrete cancer isn’t entirely restricted to coastal regions, the vast majority of cases we observe occur when the concrete reinforcing steel of a building is exposed to the elements, namely salt water,” said Henshaw.

The process of concrete spalling is one which builds up momentum, with initial disintegration followed by even more rapid breakdown of materials.

“When steel rusts, it takes up to three times its original volume,” Henshaw said. “So when this happens, the swelling causes the concrete around it to crack, exposing more reinforcing steel and concrete to the elements.”

She added that the problem of concrete spalling has been exacerbated of late by a decline in the quality of construction work during the present spate of housing development.

The SCA is calling for the NSW government to implement greater regulation of building standards, introduce mandatory building inspections and ensure that owners corporations and property owners are better apprised of how to effectively deal with this problem.

“The safety of Australian construction has been highly questionable of late and in the midst of a national apartment boom, we urge the New South Wales government to regulate industry building and design standards as soon as possible,” said Henshaw.