Karakusevic Carson Architects (KCA) has spoken out over the design and build process on its troubled Hackney block after a report revealed fixing construction defects will cost £6 million
Last week Hackney Council told the 41 families living in Bridport House in Hoxton they would have to move out within 12 months as the building contained ’potentially combustible insulation’.
The borough is set to decide next week whether to spend £6 million replacing the insulation and fixing the building’s ’series of serious defects’, and a further £2 million rehousing residents – or whether to demolish and rebuild the block.
The council has said its preferred option is major remediation works to install missing fire barriers, fix flawed brickwork, balconies and windows.
’The prospect of redevelopment only makes sense if the building could not be fixed, or if there are potentially significant benefits above remediation, and this is not the case,’ the report explains.
The document, to go before Hackney’s cabinet next Monday (16 September) explains how the design team was novated to the main contractor on a design and build contract, ’which places all design responsibility with the contractor’.
The council has said it will be taking legal action against contractor Willmott Partnership Homes.
Karakusevic Carson Architects told the AJ it was ‘deeply saddened’ to hear of the upheaval residents were experiencing.
The practice added: ‘From a wider advocacy and lessons learnt perspective, we feel that the culture of ‘value engineering’ and value erosion in design and build contracting prevalent 10-15 years ago is slowly changing.
’There have been too many examples of clients not receiving value for money and the buildings they have paid for having significant problems and bearing little resemblance to the planning permission.’
The architect said that most of its council and housing association clients were now insisting on a range of measures to ensure quality design translates into high-quality buildings.
These include detailed planning applications at Stage 3+ and Tender at Stage 4A, with full service appointments and design team retention, along with regular site checking carried out alongside a clerk of works.
KCA said it also recommended clients use design review panels in the later detailed design stages to ensure design intent and quality is retained.
The block, part of the wider regeneration of Hoxton’s Colville Estate, has suffered a number of problems since it opened in 2011, including falling roof tiles, crumbling bricks and flooding.
According to the council’s report, in 2017 the council ordered an investigation into ‘significant concerns’ the brickwork façade was cracking.
A report produced by architect PRP found nine defects, the majority of which it said had arisen as a ‘result of the methods and materials used to construct the building originally’.
It also found insulation material in the wall cavity that the council claims is combustible and ‘limited to buildings under 18 metres’.
The report states: ‘The eighth-floor part of Bridport House exceeds this height, meaning that the use of this material could not have been compliant with Building Regulations, leading to an immediate concern for the safety of the building.’
The type of insulation used on Bridport House – confirmed by the council and contractor as Kooltherm K12 – was signed off by Hackney’s own building control team at the time.
However, the council claims officers considered the fire-safety of all elements of the walls as a unit despite the insulation being non-compliant, a view the council said would not be upheld today.
Willmott Partnership Homes has firmly rejected the claim, insisting the insulation was ‘widely accepted’ as complying with Building Regulations when it was installed.
A spokesperson for the company said previously: ‘This is an extremely complicated matter, significantly exacerbated by various aspects of the Building Regulations recently being reinterpreted following the Grenfell tragedy.’
Hackney Council and Willmott Partnership Homes were approached for comment.