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White Design faces legal action over problems at exemplar eco-school

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White Design is facing legal action over its £6.5million primary school in Dartington, with part of the ground-breaking building expected to be demolished

The zero carbon school, which was completed just four years ago, started suffering from leaks shortly after completion.

According to an expert report commissioned by Devon County Council ‘the major cause of the on-going water ingress is likely to be the result of the scheme design’.

The report said ‘complexities within the rainwater harvesting system and concern with the specified use of materials’ could be to blame for the problems.

The scheme near Totnes in Devon, which picked up the Forum for the Built Environment’s Building of the Year Award in 2010, features clusters of single storey classrooms constructed from solid timber panels with sweet chestnut pitched roofs. Rainwater from the roofs was collected and used to flush the school’s toilets.  

As a result of the problems, part of White Design’s scheme is set to be demolished while the rest of the building will undergo repairs at a cost of £5.1 million.

The council has served letters before action on Bristol-based White Design and contractors Interserve in a bid to recover damages of more than £7 million.

In a statement, the council said: ‘We’ve issued letters of intent to the architects and contractors amounting to over £7 million.

‘That covers the cost of the construction work and the cost of temporarily relocating the school, including the temporary classrooms.’

Pupils at the school have had to be moved into temporary accommodation in a neighbouring field. It is expected they will have to stay in these cabins for the next two years while work is carried out to rebuild the school.

White Design has been contacted for comment.

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