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Troubled mall: University roped in

 | May 6, 2011

The authorities are in a quandry over whether or not to declare the popular Karamunsing Shopping Complex building as 'unsafe' following worrying reports of its 'structural integrity.'

KOTA KINABALU: As the controversy over the safety of the popular Karamunsing Shopping Complex continues to swirl around the massive renovation works which has changed the face of the building, the government has appointed a local university to undertake a study on the structural integrity of the building.

Rumours are that the institution in question is Universiti Malaya.

The appointment had raised more eyebrows here especially after two earlier reports made by engineering firms could not conclusively declare the structural integrity of the building.

Industry sources said that the government should not be engaging an academic institute to determine the structure’s integrity because they lacked on-site experience.

They cited a previous incident where the government engaged a Malaysian university to submit a report on the collapse of a supermarket during demolition in Petaling Jaya, which killed seven workers and injured several others.

As recently as July last year, calls were made for the government to release the report which was classified under the Official Secrets Act.

Throwing another spanner into the works at the Karamunsing Complex is the controversial renovations which raised fire safety concerns.

Fire and Rescue Department director Khiruddin Drahman told local media in February that they issued five notices to the Karamunsing Complex management to address fire safety, after the department came under heavy criticism over the department’s poor enforcement of fire safety measures in the building.

The deadline to correct any deficiencies of fire safety was three months and an “As Built Plan” within six months.

Another question posed by interested parties here has been whether there were any complete overall renovation and extension drawings submitted to City Hall.

“It’s more like build first and see what drawing approvals are needed.

“They may be some individual shop lot owners who submitted renovation drawings to DBKK and the Fire Department, but my guess is there is no overall plan,” said a source.

According the sources, few if any engineering firms would agree to certify the extension works in view of the building’s health.

“One way would be to engage a foreign firm, such as from the Philippines, to certify the completed work.They will no longer be liable as they are not practicing in Malaysia,” said a builder who requested anonymity.

How the authorities plan to sort this issue is anyone’s guess.

Building deflected

The builder also said that the three upper floors of the complex should not be used in the foreseeable future.

The authorities, who were asked to examine the structural integrity of the building, admitted that the 7th, 8th and 9th floors were not fit for occupation.

But they might find themselves in a quandary to declare the rest of the building suitable for occupation.

“The building may have deflected as much as six to seven centimetres,” said the builder, explaining the dip in the floor space of the three levels.

The technical term was a measure used by builders to gauge the stress being exerted on the supporting structure, which was said to be beyond the acceptable ratio of deflection to floor space.

Karamunsing Complex’s structural integrity was first brought into doubt in January when Suria Capital Holdings Berhad (SCHB), which occupied the three floors in question, commissioned Perunding Rekajasa to conduct a study.

Rekajasa’s report found that a “critical part of the structure had been stressed beyond its elasticity limit” and had entered into the “plastic stage” and was therefore deemed unfit.

This was followed by a second report prepared by Perunding WD Lee, who was appointed by the management of the shopping complex, which found that the building was not structurally unsound.

Both reports were submitted to City Hall and tenants had voiced their objections to the findings of both reports because they lacked complete structural and physical details.


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