Hackney housing block to be evacuated over fire safety fears

Karukusevic Carson Architects designed-housing block to be evacuated after investigations found the building contained 'potentially combustible insulation'.

The 41 families living in Bridport House in Hoxton have been told by Hackney Council they must move out within 12 months because, it claims, the 'incorrect insulation' did not meet Building Regulations when it was installed.

According to the council, investigations over the past few months have revealed a series of other 'serious construction defects', including missing fire barriers, as well as flawed brickwork, balconies and windows.

KCA was appointed by Hackney Council to take the scheme to detailed planning. But the practice's involvement ended with building control approval and construction was carried out under a design and build contract.

The council has said it will be taking legal action against contractor Willmott Partnership Homes. A council spokesperson said: "We are sorry for the failures in the construction of Bridport House and for the huge disruption residents continue to face. Moving residents from homes we all hoped would be new and permanent is not an easy decision, but our first priority is their safety and we have decided that at Bridport House, doing this work while the building remains occupied would create an unacceptable risk."

Willmott Partnership Homes said it was 'extremely disappointed' at the way problems at Bridport House had been portrayed by the council. 

The insulation the council refers to was 'widely accepted' as complying with Building Regulations at the time it was installed, it argues, and was approved by the council's building control team.

A company spokesperson said: "This is an extremely complicated matter, significantly exacerbated by various aspects of the Building Regulations recently being reinterpreted following the Grenfell Tragedy. The council has made some very strong statements today, many of which we do not accept. However, in view of the threat of legal action, we are prevented from responding to them in detail at this stage."

Part of the wider regeneration of Hoxton's Colville Estate, the block has suffered a number of problems since opening in 2011, including crumbling bricks, falling roof tiles and flooding.

Local newspaper, the Hackney Gazette reported earlier this year how the metal underside of the balcony fell from the second floor of the apartment building.

The council said remediation work, which would include the removal of all brickwork and balconies, could take around two years to complete. 

It also said the building is currently safe for residents following additional fire protection measures introduced after concerns were first raised – including 24-hour patrols and a change in evacuation procedure. 

After speaking to the London Fire Brigade however, the council decided it would be unsafe for residents to remain in the building while work to remove the insulation takes place.

The council will make a formal decision on the future of the building next month.

A version of this article first appeared in Architects' Journal

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Fire safety