Laing O’Rourke in £14m legal case over ‘defective’ university buildings

Laing O’Rourke is embroiled in a £14m dispute relating to alleged defects in the brickwork of three University of Manchester buildings, it has emerged.

The university is seeking compensation from both Laing O’Rourke and architects John McAslan + Partners for the significant works it says will be necessary to remedy the faults.

The dispute came to light after the publication of a case management judgment at the Technology and Construction Court. It outlined the case, which centres on facilities in the Jean McFarlane Building and University Place – one six-storey and two eight-storey buildings in the university’s main campus – that are used by outside organisations for conferences and other events, as well as by students and faculty members.

Manchester University claims John McAslan + Partners was in breach of contract with its design for the buildings, and in particular its design for the movement joints in the brickwork cladding.

It also alleges that Laing O’Rourke’s works were defective and not carried out in accordance with the building contract, nor with reasonable skill and care.

Structural engineers Gifford Global, said by Laing O’Rourke to be responsible for the movement joints in the allegedly defective brickwork, were brought into the proceedings by the contractor.

The cost of replacing the outer brick skin on all three blocks, together with other losses, was estimated at £13.7m in 2020 and would now be far higher, according to the university.

After the case management conference on the issue, judge Roger ter Haar noted the “significant dispute” between the parties as to the extent of any necessary remedial works, as well as disagreement over the extent of identifiable defects.

He rejected claims by Laing O’Rourke that the university was “expert shopping” – replacing one expert with another whose opinion was more favourable to its point of view.

Laing O’Rourke is expected to spend a total of £2.7m on its legal costs, of which £856,000 has already been paid, while the University of Manchester’s costs are estimated at £3.1m.

Laing O’Rourke and the University of Manchester declined to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

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