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British Library wiring dispute comes to a costly end

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A long-running saga over faulty wiring at the British Library, which cost £43.7 million to put right, has ended with the exoneration of the designer in court and no prospect of the government or the insurers recovering any of their money.

svm, the company which designed the electrical trunking as well as all the other engineering installations, was cleared of all blame in court last week when sued by the insurers for the Department of National Heritage (now dcms). His Honour Judge Bowsher qc ordered that all svm's costs should be paid by the insurers and by two third parties, Balfour Beatty and Laing Management. The insurers, led by Commercial Union and General Accident, had paid out a total of £8.4 million towards rectifying the damage.

Of the 3000km of cabling installed, a significant proportion was damaged by the ends having been drawn over sharp edges, stripping the insulation. Balfour Beatty was the contractor for the work but, before agreeing to put it right, reached an agreement with dnh that dnh would waive any rights to recover money from the contractor. Judge Bowsher said in his judgment, 'To avoid having to pay for the repairs themselves, Balfour Beatty set about preparing a case for putting the blame on svm.'

There is no one left from whom the government or the insurers can attempt to recover money.

This year's Architecture Week, from 12-19 November, has new events as well as a repeat of last year's 'Architect in the House' scheme, offering home-design advice for £10. The new line-up includes a favourite-building vote by schoolchildren; 'My Kind of Town', inviting community debate on future changes; and a regional round-up of Lottery and Millennium projects being built. To participate or find out more details, call the hotline: 0171 490 5969.

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