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Veretec in legal battle over faulty cladding

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Architect Veretec has brought a legal claim against Keyclad, a subsidiary of main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland, in a complex court battle over allegedly defective cladding on a tower block in Milton Keynes

Veretec, part of the Aukett Swanke group, has brought Keyclad into already launched proceedings after issuing a Part 20 claim against them in the Technology and Construction Court in June.

Keyclad’s parent company, Derbyshire-based Bowmer & Kirkland, is in turn suing the London practice for damages relating to the rainscreen cladding system installed at Dakota House, which completed in 2007.

And the main contractor is itself defending claims from the ultimate project client, housebuilder Crest Nicholson (joint claimant with  freeholder The Hub Management Company) over a range of problems with the 76-home block, which forms part of a wider development known as The Hub.

Crest Nicholson says investigations over water ingress through the façade of Dakota House uncovered the presence of combustible insulation and defective cavity barriers.

In its legal claim, the housebuilder listed defects on the building as including: ingress of water through the cladding system; inadequate fire stopping or fire protection in both the cladding system and the render; inadequate thermal insulation; and defects in the support structure of the cladding system.

A 24-hour waking watch patrol was put in place at the building, and a fire-detection system installed. Bowmer & Kirkland offered to carry out remedial works.

Crest Nicholson claims that Bowmer & Kirkland breached obligations in its contract for Dakota House. These breaches included that ’the design of the works was not carried out using all the reasonable skill, care and diligence to be expected of a competent designer experienced in the design of works of a similar size, scope, complexity and nature to the works’ according to the housebuilder’s legal claim. 

These alleged failings by the main contractor left Crest Nicholson with the cost of remedial and mitigation works, the client claims, as well as potential liabilities to compensate building and apartment owners among others.

Bowmer & Kirkland has filed a claim against (third party) Veretec, the architect on the project and a repeat winner of the AJ100’s executive architect of the year award, understood to relate to the building’s cladding.



However Veretec said in its recently filed claim that it was Bowmer & Kirkland building envelope subsidiary (fourth party) Keyclad which was ’liable for the same damage as is claimed by [Bowmer & Kirkland] against [Veretec], namely the defects in the rainscreen cladding system at [Dakota House]’.

The value of the Veretec’s claim is not yet known but , according to the court documents, is in excess of £200,000.

A Crest Nicholson spokesperson said: ‘Throughout this process our priority has been to support the freeholder and management company, Broad Oak, in ensuring residents are safe and remedial works to the façade of the building are completed to the required Building Regulations.’

It is understood Bowmer & Kirkland is to reclad the block of flats while it contests the legal dispute with Crest Nicholson having admitted liability on remediation work to current freeholder The Hub Management Company.

In its legal defence, Bowmer & Kirkland questioned whether Crest Nicholson, as a former freeholder, had the right to sue it over the building.

Bowmer and Kirkland said in a statement that it had ’offered to carry out remedial works to the three facades of the building to comply with Building Regulations’.

It added: ’The envelope of Dakota House is of a different construction to other buildings at the Hub being terracotta tile, insulated render and glazing to the ground floor retail areas. 

’Pending remedial works, which will involve the replacement of the terracotta and render, fire alarms are installed in individual apartments and the building is subject to 24-hour surveillance through the Hub estate managers.’

Veretec has been contacted for comment.

The case continues.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The problem of inadequate fire stopping is not unique to this development, and given that it's a threat to life rather than just a remedial issue it's surely time that the courts started handing out custodial sentences where the responsibility is clearly identifiable.
    In Exeter a few years ago a row house in a new development by a national house builder caught fire and rapidly set its neighbours alight; the fire stopping defects were found to be widespread in the development - and in others elsewhere by the same company.
    There's surely the need for research into the true extent of this problem, or perhaps there already is?

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