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Owner of Carillion’s Beetham Tower ordered to repair failing glazing

1 February 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Beetham Tower (Image: Dreamstime/Paula Green)

The owner of the 47-storey Beetham Tower in Manchester has been ordered to permanently repair failing glazed panels on the building, in a High Court ruling.

Beetham Tower, a fixture of the Manchester skyline since it was completed in 2006 by main contractor Carillion, is the tallest completed building in the UK outside London and features fully glazed external elevations made up of glass panels that form a wall of uninterrupted glass.

The first 23 floors form a Hilton hotel owned by Blue Manchester, which has a 999-year lease on the hotel section of the building.

In 2014, a serious problem emerged with the structural sealant used to bond the glass panels to a unitised frame which was hung from the edge of the floor slabs of the building.

The sealant was supposed to remove the need for externally visible fixings but after it started to fail, Carillion launched an urgent investigation with specialist subcontractor BUG-Alu Technic which designed and installed the façade.

The cause of the problem appeared to be the failure of a bond between the structural sealant and the polyester powder coating which had been applied to the frames and Carillion decided on a temporary fix to secure the safety of 1,350 glass panels by screw stitching pressure plates to the frame profiles to hold the panels securely in position.

Carillion liquidation

Work was completed by the end of November 2014 and while it was supposed to be a short-term measure, Carillion went into liquidation in January 2018 before a permanent solution could be found.

Hotel owner Blue Manchester launched a claim against the building’s freeholder, North West Ground Rents, amid concerns about this temporary solution. It argued that there were concerns about the safety of the panels, that the appearance of the stitch plates adversely affected the appearance of the tower, and that there have been safety barriers and then hoardings at ground level since 2014, which make it harder for vehicles to reach the hotel entrance.

North West Ground Rents accepted that the solution was only temporary but argued that it was sufficient while it pursued claims against Carillion’s insurers and BUG, which it hoped would enable it to find a permanent fix.

But judge Stephen Davies found in favour of Blue Manchester and said it was entitled to compel North West Ground Works to undertake a permanent fix as well as for damages to be assessed. Blue Manchester is also in line for damages as a result of the hoardings and problems with water supply to the building.

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