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Expert Witness: Investigation and Report
Expert witness: Woodland Grange Hotel.
Client: Messrs Fishburns, Solicitors.
Woodland Grange Hotel
This project was designed by a prominent firm of architects in Manchester. It forms an extension to a fine, large Victorian red brick property on the outskirts of Royal Leamington Spa. The building had been used for many years by the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF) as a residential training centre, and the extension provides facilities to accommodate a growing demand from EEF Members for training courses. It was constructed by SOL Construction on a JCT Contract with Contractor's Design Portion Supplement, which included, as a Contractor designed element, the external glazing: this was somewhat peculiar, because the architect in question had already designed the glazing, and specified the product required. One was left therefore wondering why this element of the Works needed a CDP Supplement.
From the day of its completion the building leaked. Alarmingly! Particularly into the bedrooms and the ground floor conference areas below. Over the whole exterior of the four new façades, rainwater was being driven into and through the external fabric. Considerable damage and disruption was thereby caused both to the fabric, and to the activities within the building.
We were instructed by Messrs Fishburns, Solicitors acting for the Contractor's insurers, to investigate and advise upon the evident defects in the fabric, and upon the liability of the architects. Pressure testing of the envelope revealed the location and extent of the leaks. The entire façade to each elevation was stripped and the real problem was revealed to be the use of what were essentially curtain walling units, installed in a composite steel and timber framed building without the necessary design co-ordination at the interface between the structural frame and the units! A whole a new system of seals and gaskets had to be designed and installed. The entire facade was then re-tested.
We advised in connection with disputes between the Contractor and the Employer (arbitration), and between the Contractor and the architect. The cost of the remedial measures was considerable, as were the legal costs claimed by EEF against the Contractor, and against the Architect. Resolution of the defects took over three years. Only then was the Employer able fully to utilise the facilities.
The moral of the story? If you are an Employer, think carefully before allowing the architect to share liability with the Contractor; if you are a Contractor, avoid CDP Supplements like the plague. And, beware the interface between the CDP and the remainder of the building. We would suggest it is the architect's responsibility to ensure the CDP component is integrated into, and compatible with, the rest of the Scheme. That is not the Contractor's role.
And, beware architects who are unwilling to provide drips and upstands to their roofing details! If the relevant Code of Practice, and all the available guidance requires them, make sure they are provided. They are not a fashion accessory!
Below: spray testing of the existing facade; the curtain walling units as originally installed; the unsealed junction between the units, and the timber and steel structure.
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