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Council coughs up extra £600k to fix roof on Hawkins\Brown's Corby Cube

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Corby Borough Council has agreed to find an extra £600,000 to stop the roof of Hawkins\Brown’s troubled Corby Cube from leaking

The 7,700m² flagship building has now cost the local authority £48.2 million - a whopping £13 million over original estimates - with neither the Stirling prize-shortlisted architect nor contractor Galliford Try willing to take the blame for water penetration coming from the ‘large flat roof decked area’ and rooftop ‘tree pits’.

According to the report prepared for the One Corby Policy Committee meeting on 3 September, the ‘roof needs substantial work including [the] removal of the remaining trees and soil from the pits, repair of the roof membrane, other rectifications’ and the installation of a new flat roof area.

With little chance of either the design team or the builder admitting responsibility, the authority said it had to act quickly before the winter to stop further water ingress.

The report reads: ‘It is with great regret that this additional expenditure is sought. Members were however advised in July 2012 that further funding would have to be requested. Since then efforts to have the issues resolved by the design team and contractor have been unsuccessful and the need to complete the 4th floor because of water penetration issues have become all the more apparent.’

Only the leader of the Conservative group on the council David Sims and fellow Tory Rob McKellar voted against the extra outlay and work is set to begin imminently.

McKellar said: ‘As the cost of the Corby Cube continues to spiral out of control, the injured party here is the taxpayer.

‘Aside from the extortionate cost of the Cube, the people of Corby have been left with a building that is so shoddy in its design and construction that it doesn’t even keep its occupants dry on a rainy day.’

It is understood the authority is still considering legal action to recoup the additional money spent on the building which has been dogged by problems since opening in 2010.

The number of snagging problems has, the five-page report confirmed, dropped however from 443 in July 2012 to 119 in July 2013.

Hawkins\Brown was unavailable for comment but did release a copy of a letter (attached) sent to Corby Borough Council’s chief executive Norman Stronach saying the funds for the repairs should come out of the bond held by the authority.

Extract from the report for 3 September meeting: Who is to blame?

‘Hawkins Brown has been consistently adamant that the leak problems are not a design issue.

‘Galliford Try have until of late been willing to accept partial responsibility over workmanship issues. However their insurers recently engaged an independent roof specialist who concluded the leaks were not attributable to workmanship but design.

‘Hence Galliford Try’s previous willingness to help and pay in part for the roof works has gone.

‘We are at an impasse but need to get the roof watertight and complete. To that end a tender exercise is being prepared to employ a new specialist roofing contractor to make the roof watertight and complete before the onset of winter.’

Read the full report here.

Previous Story (AJ 30.08.2013)

Hawkins\Brown counters Corby Cube claims

Hawkins\Brown has hit back at the damning report into the failures surrounding the allegedly ‘commercially and operationally flawed’ Corby Cube

Last month (AJ 19.07.12), Corby Borough Council released a 91-page document drawn up by an internal scrutiny working group looking at, among other things, why the flagship building was now more than £12 million over its original £35 million budget. The 7,700m² landmark can still only house a maximum of 1,560 people – half that originally envisaged in the brief.

However, in a letter sent to Corby councillors by the practice, the firm said many conclusions in the report were based on ‘falsehoods and inaccuracies’ (see below and attached).

As well as questioning where the reported £47 million cost figure had come from, the practice also pointed out that although it had queried ‘poor construction practice’ and noted an ‘extensive list of construction defects’, a number of the problematic items had been ‘accepted by the council against the advice of Hawkins\Brown’.

In a filenote attached to the letter, Hawkins\Brown branded claims that its alleged ‘lack of performance’ had led to the scheme becoming a ‘de facto hybrid’ building as ‘patently untrue’.

Founding partner Roger Hawkins said: ‘The decision to adopt a “hybrid” building contract rather than the one issued with the tender was taken by Corby Borough Council and its contract administrator, six months after the works were tendered, and against the explicit advice of the design team.’

He added: ‘We just want the truth to emerge and a balanced view into any investigation.’

Dear councillor,

As you may be aware, Hawkins\Brown was employed by the council as architect and lead designer on the Corby Cube project. We are concerned that the Public Report of Scrutiny Review into the Cube, Parklands Gateway is unfairly critical of work carried out by our practice and the whole design team. It contains a large number of false statements regarding Hawkins\Brown, and the opinions and conclusions that the report puts forward are based on falsehoods and inaccuracies. The Report disparages Hawkins\Brown and has the potential to cause serious damage to our professional reputation as it has been widely reported.

 Given your role as a councillor, we can identify you as our client for this project and therefore write to you formally to ask that our proposal to offer a balanced view to the report is reconsidered by Corby Borough Council.

 I attended the open session of the meeting of the full council on 8 August 2012 and was pleased to note that several members of the council acknowledged that the Overview and Scrutiny Panel Working Group had based their report on opinions rather than contractual fact and had not taken the views of several key people involved with the project.

 For your information I have attached a few examples of the statements we believe to be false set out in the ‘summary’ and ‘conclusion’ section of the report. This is not a line-by-line review of the entire report but will hopefully give you an understanding of the gravity of our concerns.

There were several variations related to changing client requirements, such as the late involvement of the theatre operator needing a box office and amendments in the technical demands of a complex theatre, together with the reorganisation of the library and ‘one stop shop’ which caused an increase in the contract value. Costs can also be attributed to completion of the adjacent Corby swimming pool and public realm works.

It is unclear where other costs, now reported as part of the cost of the Cube project, have come from, as these did not form part of the contract works. Several areas within the Cube were left as shell space at completion with the council seeking a commercial operator for a gallery and café. In the event, the council has not been able to secure this investment and is now seeking to carry out the work itself.

Throughout the contract, there were examples of poor construction practice reported by Hawkins\Brown and at practical completion there was an extensive list of construction defects and snagging items identified by Hawkins\Brown and the design team. It appears that some of these items have been accepted by the council against the advice of Hawkins\Brown. Any further costs to rectify such construction defects should not form part of the contract works.

The Council’s Scrutiny Report opens with the lines ‘the Cube is a building of elegance and presence forming Corby Borough Council’s civic headquarters … it has already established itself as the heart of the town’s civic and cultural life’. Hawkins\Brown acknowledges these positive statements and the support it has received from friends and local people in response to the report’s unfavourable allegations. We have confirmed that while we strongly disagree with much of the report’s contents and conclusions, and are extremely disappointed not to be allowed to contribute to the report, we are continuing to support the council and work with it while the contractor completes the defects.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Hawkins
For and on behalf of the partners at Hawkins\Brown and the associated Corby Cube Design Team

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