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KCA’s troubled Hackney block to be evacuated over fire safety fears

  • 4 Comments

Residents are to be moved out of a Karakusevic Carson Architects-designed housing block in Hackney after investigations found the building contained ’potentially combustible insulation’

Hackney Council told the 41 families living in Bridport House in Hoxton they must move out within 12 months because, it claims, the ‘incorrect insulation’ did not meet Building Regulations when it was installed.

According to the council, investigations over the past few months have revealed a series of other ’serious construction defects’, including missing fire barriers, as well as flawed brickwork, balconies and windows. 

KCA was appointed by Hackney Council to take the scheme to detailed planning. However, the practice’s involvement ended with building control approval and construction was carried out under a design and build contract.

The council has said it will be taking legal action against contractor Willmott Partnership Homes.

A council spokesperson said: ’We are sorry for the failures in the construction of Bridport House and for the huge disruption residents continue to face. 

’Moving residents from homes we all hoped would be new and permanent is not an easy decision, but our first priority is their safety and we have decided that at Bridport House doing this work while the building remains occupied would create an unacceptable risk.’

Willmott Partnership Homes said it was ‘extremely dissapointed’ at the way the problems at Bridport House had been portrayed by the council.

It argues that the insulation the council refers to was ‘widely accepted’ as complying with Building Regulations at the time it was installed and was approved by the council’s building control team.

A spokesperson for the company said: ‘This is an extremely complicated matter, significantly exacerbated by various aspects of the Building Regulations recently being reinterpreted following the Grenfell tragedy.’

’The council has made some very strong statements today, many of which we do not accept. However, in view of the threat of legal action, we are prevented from responding to them in detail at this stage.’

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.

Earlier this year, local newspaper the Hackney Gazette reported how the metal underside of a balcony fell from the second floor of the apartment building. 

The council said remediation work, which would include the removal of all brickwork and balconies, could take about two years to complete.

It said the building is currently safe for residents following additional fire protection measures introduced after concerns were first raised – including 24-hour patrols and a change in evacuation procedure. 

However, after speaking to the London Fire Brigade, the council decided it would be unsafe for residents to remain in the building while work to remove the insulation takes place.

The council will make a formal decision on the future of the building next month.

Bridport House was the first phase of the wider regeneration of the Colville Estate which is set to deliver 925 new homes – with 50 per cent affordable across the phased development.

The other phases of the regeneration have been shortlisted for the Neave Brown award. 

In a statement, Karakusevic Carson Architects said: ’We are deeply saddened to hear that the residents of Bridport House are experiencing such upheaval. 

’We understand that investigations undertaken by several other consultants, on behalf of Hackney Council have identified a number of construction defects including poor brickwork, incorrect use and installation of brick support angles and brackets, incorrect workmanship and mortar around movement joints and lintels, and insufficient torque applied to brickwork brackets and shelf angles meaning the brackets were showing signs of movement and deflection.

’Karakusevic Carson Architects prepared detailed construction drawings for Bridport House, which were compliant with Building Regulations and were approved by building control.

’However, Karakusevic Carson did not have a site monitoring presence. The role of Employers Agent was carried out by others. We therefore cannot comment further on the installation or final workmanship.’

Image: Google

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • "KCA was appointed by Hackney Council to take the scheme to detailed planning. However, the practice’s involvement ended with building control approval and construction was carried out under a design and build contract".
    PLEASE NOTE: "The practice’s involvement ended with building control approval and construction was carried out under a design and build contract". It says it all. Very sad.

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  • Industry Professional

    @Mark Westcott / AJ - on this basis, surely the headline is a sensationalist smear against KCA, and the title should be referencing Wilmott Dixon, the party responsible for the detailed design, rather than the pre-construction Architects?

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  • agree with above comments - if a practice is not responsible for the detail design then it is not their block and the headline is misleading. House builders seem pleased to badge their developments with the kudos that the name of a good architects firm brings but not as pleased to employ them to see the project through - can the AJ dig a little deeper here?

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  • I agree with all of the above, but sadly this is the corner that architects are painted into nowadays. It is a symptom of neoliberalism, privatisation and deregulation. Procurement routes such as PFI and DB have put construction contractors in charge and able to ‘use’ architects as precarious design sub-contractors.

    The Lacrosse Tower fire case (Melbourne, Australia) confirmed that the judiciary are still clinging to the deluded and outdated notion that architects design all aspects of buildings. This was a DB project with flammable cladding that caught fire, but fortunately there were no fatalities.

    The judge awarded A$5.7 million damages to the claimants (the building’s residents in a civil action) and ordered the architects to pay about a third of that sum! This was in spite of contractual caveats concerning detail design specifications being in place, on behalf of the architects. The building surveyors and fire safety consultants were ordered to pay the other two thirds of the damages, respectively. Bizarrely, the BD contractor was ordered to pay only a few percent of the damages sum!

    Consequently there is no financial downside to DB & PFI contractors substituting non-combustible cladding specifications with cheaper flammable alternatives (as was done at Grenfell). The Lacrosse judgment will act as a strong precedent across all common law jurisdictions, and the PII industry have already acknowledged this. UK architects are already facing massively inflated premiums.

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