Uncovering the cracks in property maintenance
Eamon Roberts, Director at Finnegan Property Services reveals how a relatively simple task of re-asphalting a balcony grew into a major works project, involving eight parties and a year of investigative works and negotiations.
You only have to see the damage that water can cause to a building to appreciate the importance of having a proactive planned maintenance programme.
Such was the case at Gloucester Terrace, a Regency property converted into flats in Paddington, where Finnegan Property Services, Property & Construction Consultants, were appointed to investigate the cause of water ingress and oversee remedial works to asphalt- covered balconies.
But lifting the asphalt was like opening a can of worms – through many years of neglect water had penetrated underneath, rotting the French door timber cills and frames, which formed part of the structure. As a result, the York stone balcony had weakened to such an extent that it had fractured, rendering it unsafe. Putting it right would involve 12 months of protracted negotiations, involving surveyors, the property manager and lessees, contractors, scaffolding companies, structural engineers and the Council’s Conservation, Planning and Building Control departments.
First, Finnegan Property Services engaged a structural engineer who determined the extent of the problem, Building Control issued a dangerous structure notice and the main contractor adapted the scaffold to prop up the stones.
Listed building challenges
As Gloucester Terrace is a historic building, the repairs required both planning and listed building consent. Also, at the conservation officer’s insistence, the York stones would have to be replaced ‘like-for-like’.
To complicate matters further, sections of flooring in the two affected flats needed to be opened up to discover how the stonework was secured. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a combination of complex cantilevering and pinning, which would not comply with modern construction standards.
After an initial design stand-off between the structural engineer, who suggested using a lighter material, and the conservation officer, who wanted to stick with original York stone replacements, a compromise was reached. The back edge of the stones would be fastened with structural steel and the balcony supported with cantilevering steelwork struts. These would be clad with render to replicate the stone detailing, in line with the building’s architectural style.
Obviously, this project caused significant time and financial inconvenience to the residents, not least the upheaval to those in the two affected flats. A key issue was helping the property manager and lessees understand the conservation restrictions which, effectively resulted in all leaseholders having to contribute considerably more money for no discernible aesthetic benefit.
In their role as project managers, Finnegan Property Services arranged a conference call with the planning department for everyone involved. This provided an open forum to discuss concerns and explain to the stakeholders what was happening and why.
The project is now on track for completion in February 2015 – a lasting and sympathetic solution that will preserve another historic building for the next life time.
“Historic building assessments are an essential starting point. Never underestimate the complexity of maintaining listed buildings. It is so important to appoint appropriately experienced professionals who understand how to manage the risks”
Eamon Roberts, Director at Finnegan Property Services.
Posted on 15 January, 2016