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Expert Witness: European Roofing Services Ltd vs EcoTherm Insulation Ltd.
Client: Simmons and Simmons, Solicitors.
We were instructed by Messrs Simmons and Simmons, Solicitors, on behalf of EcoTherm Insulation (UK) Limited to investigate and prepare a Report upon an alleged product failure in connection with the delamination of roof insulation boards to the roof of Durham College. We reviewed Reports prepared by experts acting on behalf of the Claimant, studied the Statements of Case and, a quantity of correspondence and invoices between the parties. It was alleged by the Claimant that delamination of the insulation was a manufacturing fault and thus the liability of our Client. The Claimant was however unable to substantiate such suggestions, especially in light of the evidence of the site photographs showing the insulant being used to support scaffold, to store materials, and as an access route for mobile scaffold towers.
Thereafter we attended a joint meeting of experts in an attempt to narrow the matters in dispute. That meeting being unsuccessful, we then attended a Mediation, on behalf of our Client, and were successful in negotiating a settlement at a considerably reduced figure, with no admission of liability. It was clear damage to the insulation had been caused by following trades and by the main contractor’s use of the membrane as a working surface for subsequent phases of the works. The illustrations below show the lack of protection of the membrane, and its use by following trades, and the resulting delamination of the insulation from its facing.
It should be borne in mind that the majority of products used in the construction industry are manufactured in controlled environments, many to recognised production control standards. Products are frequently covered by independent third party Certification and are carefully handled and packaged before leaving the factory. Hence, product failure as a result of incorrect manufacture is relatively unusual. Our own work, and other sources, suggests that at most 4% of building defects giving rise to litigation occur as a result of product failures. And, the majority of those are caused by selecting the wrong component, or by defective installation.
In roofing, particularly flat roofing, most product and membrane failures are caused by a failure to protect completed work from damage by following trades. This can best be summed up by the phrase “We haven’t got time to do the job properly, but we’ve got time to do the job twice!”
The function of a roof is to keep the water out of the building, not to serve as a convenient access route for maintenance work, or a handy location for items of plant and equipment. Failure to observe these basic principles will lead to problems, which are likely to be extremely costly to rectify.
Below: photographs of the lack of protection of the membrane, its use by the following trades, and the resulting delamination of the insulation from its facing.
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