Periodic Redecoration 2015
Periodic redecoration was carried out during 2015. The remaining flat block wall repairs and other maintenance were carried out at the same time as redecoration, when hoists and scaffolding were already available, to save cost. Property owners decided at the 2011 AGM (PDF, 30kb) to delay this from 2014 to 2015 and decided at the 2014 AGM (PDF, 33kb) to delay the next redecoration from 2019 until 2020 to reduce service charges slightly.
The work was let to builder Polyteck, which tendered the lowest price, and administered by surveyor Hallas & Co. Work started in July 2015. The Directors carried out inspections where they felt those by the surveyor were not adequate. Because Polyteck did not communicate fully with residents, the Directors and Managing Agent carried out a survey, which closed on 30 October, and they thank residents who replied. Polyteck initially advised completion on 15 October, slightly later than planned, corrected most defects by 17 November and the remainder by 24 December. This work was accepted by the surveyor and Directors. As is usual, 5% of the cost is being retained for 6 months in case any more defects become apparent.
Rendall and Rittner carried out the first and second section 20 consultations required by law for the proposed work and there were no responses. Work was funded from the flats reserves collected since 2010 for this purpose. Only flat owners contributed to these funds, not house owners.
The external work for all flat blocks was to:
The internal work for all flat blocks was to decorate common areas internally. There were not enough funds to seal the common area floors nor to replace strip lamps outside flat doors with LED lamps without reducing flat reserves to unacceptably low levels, so this was left until the next couple of years.
The clock tower was decorated with graffiti-resistant paint and the top of the portico was repaired when hoists and scaffolding were on site for the flats work to save cost.
This work was funded from the Estate reserve, to which both flat and house owners contributed. No work was paid for only by house owners.
Flat Roof Repairs 2013-15
After residents started noticing leaks from roofs and windows in several blocks at the end of 2012, our then maintenance contractor Gigney investigated 21-26 Abbey Drive, 39-45 Church Lane, 1-11 & 12-24 Limetree Walk and 89-103 St Benedicts Close. The indented design of the roofs causes problems where they meet the walls every few years, so Gigney sealed those roofs again early in 2013.
Residents noticed more leaks in heavy rain in late 2013 and early 2014. After seeking several estimates, a builder on Rendall and Rittner's panel, Central Services, was instructed to carry out roof repairs in March 2014. It repeatedly delayed this work then claimed to have carried work out when given a final deadline. However, residents advised that most work was not done and this was confirmed by later investigations and photographs. The invoice was disputed in May 2014, not paid and the builder has not pursued its claim. This dispute unfortunately delayed repairs by several months.
As it was urgent to carry out repairs before the autumn, Hobex was appointed under the provisions agreed at the 2013 AGM (PDF, 31kb) after it provided estimates for investigation and repair that were comparable with previous competitive estimates. These roof investigations and repairs were carried out in the week starting 15 September 2014, using a large hoist. The work carried out is listed below. In October, Hobex also sealed gaps between window frames and walls. Further roof repairs were completed in February 2015 internally and using a small hoist.
Polyteck (formerly Hobex) completed the outstanding permanent repair in October 2015 using the access equipment for periodic maintenance to save cost. Unfortunately, during the redecoration, further leaks were discovered in two blocks during rain, which POlyteck has been asked to investigate using a small hoist and quote for the repairs needed. A decision will then be made whether to tender the repairs, bearing in mind the need to prevent damage to the new decoration.
List of Work
Flat Wall Repairs 2013-15
During re-decoration in the summer of 2010, the building contractor and supervising surveyor, Smith Baxter, noticed some cracking on two blocks of flats at a high level underneath the eaves, typically near windows and the concrete cantilevers supporting the roofs. Subsequently, similar cracking was been found in most other large blocks of flats.
The Directors were not satisfied with Smith Baxter's report from visual inspection and it agreed to investigate at reduced cost in June 2011. This determined the cause as thermal expansion of the outer brickwork with insufficient expansion joints to allow expansion without cracking and did not find subsidence, the roof support trusses and roofs were undamaged and the cracking only affected the outer layer of facing bricks, not the inner structural walls. Smith Baxter carried out a binocular survey in August 2011 that found most other blocks were affected similarly. Revised versions of these reports from February 2012 with details corrected are available below. Smith Baxter proposed extensive repair work.
Rendall and Rittner informed the Estate insurance company. As expected, the insurer's loss adjuster confirmed in November 2011 that the defects are not covered by insurance.
The Directors and loss adjuster had concerns whether the extensive repair work proposed by Smith Baxter was necessary as it included rebuilding undamaged sections of wall (Smith Baxter estimated the cost around £900 per flat), which Smith Baxter finally acknowledged in May 2012. The Directors commissioned a second opinion from Ellis & Moore, which won a competitive tender. The second opinion, associated plates and a summary are available below. We then held a meeting with the structural engineers from Smith Baxter and Ellis & Moore at which they agreed on the possible causes of the defects, the recommended minimum repairs, that there should be a photographic survey to quantify the work required and allow accurate costs to be established, and subsequent monitoring required. They confirmed that delay to the repairs to reduce costs would cause little harm. The Directors reported the summary to the 2012 AGM (PDF, 31kb). Smith Baxter withdrew from carrying out the photographic survey and agreed to waive the unpaid charges for the unsatisfactory statement of work.
Hallas & Co surveyors won a competitive tender in February 2013 for the photographic survey, carried out in April and May 2013, to specify the repair work and estimate its cost. Hallas & Co estimated the cost of repairs for the whole Estate (subject to detailed investigations) around £25,000 compared to the first surveyor's rough estimate based on two blocks in excess of £100,000. This fully justified the Directors' decision to query the unnecessary work initially proposed and to obtain a second opinion. The work schedule is available below.
Ground investigations and drain surveys recommended by the surveyor were carried out in the summer of 2013. The report is available below. The Directors reported on this at the 2013 AGM (PDF, 31kb). The investigation results were referred to Ellis & Moore structural engineers, selected by competitive quote, for review in December 2013. Their opinion was that this did not affect the repair work required, provided some further explanation of the causes of cracking and informed the monitoring required. The opinion is available below.
Service charges for repairs were collected in 2013-14 and 2014-15 so that more urgent repairs could be carried out in the summer of 2014 and the remainder with the next perodic redecoration in 2015 to save cost. For safety and security, residents were advised to keep windows closed during work because of scaffolding allowing access and some noise and dust.
The Managing Agent carried out the Section 20 consultations required by law for the more urgent repairs to blocks 31-36 Abbey Drive, 31-45 Church Lane and 105-135 St Benedicts Close. No comments were received on the first or second notices. Woodgrove won the competitive tender carried out by surveyor Hallas & Co and carried out work between July and October 2014. Work had to be suspended several times. When the outer bricks were removed from 31-45 Church Lane, some minor cracks without displacement were found to inner blocks, which were referred to the structural engineer who recommmended resin sealing, which was done. Woodgrove failed to order matching bricks in timely manner. In Abbey Drive, permission had to be sought from an off-site owner to erect scaffolding on their land.
Less urgent cracking and loose mortar were repaired by Polyteck as part of the periodic maintenance in 2015. All wall cracks found in 2010 and subsequent investigations have now been repaired according to the structural engineer recommendations. Work is not to specification around three roof-level corbels so the Directors negotiated that the builder will repair these if required for a period of five years to the next periodic maintenance in 2020 instead of the usual six months. The work left these three with solid mortar like most other corbels originally, which have not needed repair, instead of with a flexible seal.
Some further cracking was found in 31-45 Church Lane and 105-135 St Benedicts Close in 2015, which will be referred to the structural engineer, Ellis & Moore, to advise if additional repair is required. As with the previous wall cracking, which was mostly from thermal expansion, this was in the external facing brickwork, which is not structural.
Documents can be downloaded here but require a username and password, which are case sensitive. The reports are quite large, so you need a fast internet connection and please download them once then keep copies on your computer. The username and password have been changed and were given out at the 2013 AGM (PDF, 31kb) and are also available from the Managing Agent. For security, those given out at previous Annual General Meetings no longer apply and please do not store the username and password on your computer or remember them in your browser.
The reports are also available to registered flat owners by email or post on request to the Managing Agent.
Car Park Walls 2011 & 2013-14
A tenant's car that the police confirmed was parked on a slope without its handbrake being applied demolished a wall in the car parking area near the entrance to St Benedicts Close in June 2011. The tenant then left the Estate without providing contact details or apparently informing his insurance company, leaving us to claim through our and his insurance companies. Once we received approval, following a competitive tender, Hobex rebuilt a lower but thicker wall, designed to prevent people sitting on it, in January 2012. Polyteck damaged this wall while carrying out the periodic maintenance in autumn 2015 and repaired it.
In late September 2012, another part of the wall between the car park off St Benedicts Close and Church Lane was found to be severely damaged, with one support pillar loose and cracks radiating from vehicle bumper level that ran through the entire thickness. For safety, the loose pillar was taken down immediately, a temporary fence was erected and parking restrictions in that area were relaxed while work took place.
Unfortunately, the insurance company initially did not accept our claim that the damage was obviously caused by vehicle impact. Its first loss adjuster asserted that the damage was due to movement from the retained ground and that the damage did not match vehicle impact. This was demonstrably false as the retained ground is minimal and entirely below the cracked areas, while the damage precisely matched previous damage due to vehicle impact. It also pointed out that Laing Homes did not originally construct the wall correctly. After long argument, the insurance company agreed to appoint a second loss adjuster and an independent surveyor. They accepted that the wall was probably damaged by vehicle impact and negotiated a settlement with us that avoided betterment and reflected the poor construction and other damage to the wall.
The second loss adjuster and surveyor advised that the wall could be repaired rather then being demolished and replaced, so the Directors investigated this option. Repair was cheaper, even when employing a structural engineer for the specification, so this option was chosen initially. Structural engineer Ellis & Moore was selected after seeking two quotes and prepared a specification for repair.
Builder Gigney, which had won the competitive tender for rebuilding and had previously carried out good work on the Estate, confimed that it could carry out the specified repairs and was instructed to do so. It delayed the work and started in early September 2013. A number of early issues not following the specification were resolved and work continued until late October when further serious issues were discovered. The builder had made several serious errors repairing the wall and the work did not meet safety requirements. Gigney then suggested that we get another firm to complete the work and made a settlement offer. When we had established the cost of remedial work, a settlement was agreed with Gigney waiving its charges and additionally paying compensation.
After a competitive tender to correct and complete repairs or alternatively to demolish and rebuild the wall, Hobex was selected to demolish and rebuild it, as it was now beyond repair. It did this in April to May 2014, building the new wall to modern guidelines. The majority of the cost was met by the insurance settlement and the compensation from the first builder, with the balance from the Estate reserve fund. As this is the fourth time a car park wall has been damaged in 25 years since the Estate was built, large wooden pillars with reflectors were installed to protect the new wall. Drivers parking in those spaces will need to take care to stop their vehicles within the parking space to avoid damage to their vehicles.