Remediation job stalls as cladding firm goes bust

A cladding-remediation job has stalled after the liquidation of a cladding fabricator.

Work to remove and replace dangerous cladding on Sterte Court in Poole, Dorset, faltered after H&H Architectural Systems collapsed in August, meaning it was not possible to deliver panels for the job in time, Construction News can reveal.

The blocks, which include two 10-storey buildings, were clad in a high-pressure laminate cladding and combustible insulation materials, according to council documents released in 2020.

The insulation used was also “not compliant with building regulations in respect of fire safety”, while there were also “fire-stopping issues”, the document added. The council further identified evidence of what it described as “poor workmanship” on the project.

According to a separate document, Keepmoat’s regeneration arm was the contractor responsible for installing the cladding on the block in 2015. The company was sold to Engie in 2017. Keepmoat’s housebuilding division is a separate, unrelated company.

Remediation work had begun at the site under United Living, which was appointed to carry out building-remediation work across the council area and took on the job at Sterte Court.

However, the bottom five floors of the 10-storey buildings still need replacement cladding to be fitted, a process that has now been held up following the collapse of H&H Architectural Systems.

Sterte Court is managed by an arm’s-length management company set up by the local authority.

Karen Rampton, portfolio holder for people and homes at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, said the delay in fixing the defects was “solely down to the manufacturer of the panels entering insolvency before the final elements needed to complete the work were delivered to site”.

She added: “Whilst these circumstances are subject to the current market challenges facing all in the building trade, we remain in regular communication with United Living to find a way of getting the panels released and we are in their hands so that the work can be finished.

“The buildings remain safe to live in and I am reassured that United Living have the health and safety of residents uppermost in their mind whilst this work remains paused. I have met with the residents and will make sure they are kept updated.”

A spokesperson for United Living said the company was working with the local authority to “find a suitable replacement so that works may resume as soon as possible”.

H&H Architectural Systems, which had a turnover smaller than the threshold requiring it to publish full company accounts, owed 120 creditors more than £1.4m at the time of its collapse, according to documents released by its liquidator, Mazars.

Commenting on the collapse of H&H Architectural Systems, a spokesperson for Mazars said: “The coronavirus pandemic, as with many smaller companies, wiped out the [firm’s] reserves, and then working capital dried up, which meant life was getting harder and harder. Then, this year, with the inherent economic headwinds, it lost the ability to keep going.

“Mazars was appointed formally on 16 August, by which time the workforce had been made redundant.”

CN has contacted Engie for comment.

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