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Housing & Residential

Client: Insurers for a specialist subcontractor
Situation: Several blocks of multi-storey timber framed housing had been constructed in West London. One block was substantially destroyed by fire leading to a wider investigation as to the design of fire resisting elements of the construction and in particular the installation of fire stopping and fire barriers. Probyn Miers was appointed in an expert capacity to investigate the design and construction of the building
Action: We analysed forensic records made after the fire, as well as the design drawings and contemporary evidence from witnesses. We provided early advice to insurers and ultimately draft reports and a report for mediation.
Result: The case was settled at mediation.

 

Client: Privately owned property development company
Situation: A dispute arose relating to alleged defects in the design of a group of residential buildings prior to construction, their site having been sold with a Planning Permission in place. The purchaser claimed that the approved design was not buildable. Probyn Miers was required to comment on whether the design was defective as claimed, and whether it could in fact be built, and on the services provided by the buildings’ designer.
Action: Probyn Miers provided a report on the practicalities of the design.
Result: The case settled at pre-action stage.

 

Client: Main contractor
Situation: A dispute arose between a main contractor and a specialist subcontractor over the repeated failure of asphalt waterproofing to the roof of a new build apartment block, with resulting internal damage.  Probyn Miers was required to provide an opinion on the standards of design and workmanship, and to analyse the causes of failure.
Action: Probyn Miers produced a report for adjudication.
Result: The adjudicator’s decision was partly in favour of the subcontractor.

 

Client: Solicitors for architect’s PI insurers
Situation: The flats were formed in the previously uninhabited lower storey of two 5-storey semi-detached, red brick, bay-fronted Victorian houses located on a steep hill.  The flats are located at semi-basement level and the houses have a retained earth condition on 3 sides.  The flats exhibited varying levels of damp, which was severe in some locations.The Claimants alleged that the design and installation of the basement waterproofing were defective.  Their surveyor expert prepared a remedial scheme which involved gutting the flats back to brick walls and concrete floor slab, in order to install a proprietary cavity drainage membrane system incorporating perimeter drainage, sump and pump:  an approach which involved a far more extensive scope of works than the original waterproofing installation.
Action: Probyn Miers was appointed as architect expert to consider the Claimants’ proposed measures to resolve the damp penetration, to prepare an expert report for the purposes of litigation and to prepare alternative proposals for remedial works.  Probyn Miers produced a remedial solution for the damp problems based on a combination of measures designed to remedy the known damp problems, rather than a uniform treatment of all parts of the Premises, which directly addressed each of the damp-related problems, but did not require stripping out and replacement of the majority of sound fixtures and fittings.  The alternative proposals, although they provided additionally for external sub-soil drainage and enhanced positive input ventilation, were far cheaper than the Claimants’ scheme
Result: The action was settled before trial.

 

Client: Solicitors for architect
Situation: This case concerned a housing scheme which provides sheltered housing and assisted living apartments for elderly people in a block up to 5 storeys high.
Various defects including cracking, buckling and uneven floors at external walls, lift shaft and roof, and rotation of window cills, were caused by differential movement in the timber-framed block, which included brick cladding and other constructions, requiring £0.5m remedial works.
Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion on alleged defects in the design and construction.  Matters investigated included moisture content of the timber frame, shrinkage of the timber frame, expansion of the brickwork and other movements that should have been anticipated, with reference to contemporary published guidance.  Tasks included analysis of architect’s and timber frame specialist’s details, including movement joints and compressible fillers.  We also compared the design with the construction as built.
Result: The case was settled by negotiation shortly after mediation.

 

Client: Solicitor for architect
Situation: An architect designed the conversion of a Victorian house to multiple flats.  Following confusions at planning application stage, the local authority intervened to halt preparatory clearance work and to prosecute the architect for demolishing a building in a conservation area, although the building’s two public facades had been intentionally preserved.
Action: Probyn Miers analysed the primary documents and drawings, particularly those relating to the planning and conservation area consent applications.  Probyn Miers produced a report showing how others were primarily responsible for the allegedly excessive demolition, and illustrating how little real detriment had been caused to the conservation area’s visual character.
Result: The case was tried at the regional Crown court in front of a jury.  Probyn Miers expert gave evidence and was cross-examined, following which the architect was acquitted by a substantial majority verdict.

 

Client: Solicitor for house owner, defending a claim from builder for unpaid invoices. 
Situation:

The client purchased a large detached country house in need of substantial renovation.  Understandably, the architect’s first move was to get the building envelope weathertight.  It was logical to keep out the rain and let the building dry before proceeding with any internal works.  The architect obtained just one tender and let a JCT Minor Works Building Contract worth £180,000. 

Subsequently the architect began to instruct the contractor to carry out refurbishment works not in the scope of the re-roofing works.  As prices for parts of the work came in, the overall cost escalated beyond the total cost anticipated and beyond the client’s budget.  The initial Minor Works re-roofing contract was progressively enlarged for the internal refurbishment to a total value of almost £1.3m, 7 times its original value. 

An early start on site by no means guarantees early completion.  The construction period lasted 2 years and 3 months. 

Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion on the architect’s performance as contract administrator, the architect’s inspections, forms of contract adopted, responsibility of contractor / architect / client for delay, cost of remedial works and other specific issues defined by the instructing solicitor.
Result: The dispute was settled at mediation.


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