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68 EXTERNAL ENVELOPE


facade system. The overall project can easily double if total replacement is required. Another hugely significant cost that appears to have been overlooked is that of accommodation for residents while remediation work is undertaken. While not needed in all cases, it can be quite significant. The challenge is enhanced if we consider that it is needed in an environment of a chronic housing shortage.


We need to remember while the Government is funding the replacement of illegal cladding boards, this does not include other elements within the facade


Having said that, it does appear many proposed funding contracts are still held in the hands of the landlords and managing agents – resulting from what appears to be demanding contractual clauses regarding future and past liability. While ultimately designed to protect taxpayers, it’s clear that a contractual stalemate doesn’t exactly help those tenants or lease owners living in unsafe properties.


Liability issues


The contractual details surrounding the process of release of the funding is another issue that appears to be worrying many contractors. Funding penalties relating to late delivery, liability for poor workmanship associated with the original cladding system and its substructure, insurance cover for the project – all have led to contractors questioning their confidence in the funding system and how much risk they are prepared to expose their businesses to. As the economy starts to pick up, we have to remember these same contractors, who are in limited supply, have other options – many of which are much more straightforward, and less risky. In addition, there is the part-funding scenario created when assessment consultants or contractors peel away old cladding material only to find non- conforming insulation, framing and fixings beneath, which need to be replaced. In this regard we need to remember while the Government is funding the replacement of illegal cladding boards, the funding does not include other elements within the


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Skills shortages Finally, labour shortages mean that the construction industry is struggling to find enough skilled installers to undertake the remediation work. The correct installation of cladding – including fire breaks, insulation, fixings and boards – is not a simple task and requires specialist skills which often come from overseas. These are projects that must be completed correctly, however skills shortages and the lack of available training within and for the contractor market will surely act as a further brake on progress. To top it off, it appears there are also major material supply issues, with some contractors quoting 20 plus week deliveries on hard metals, insulation and wood. Not to mention recent volatility in timber and aluminium prices – making cost estimations extremely difficult. Add to this the impact of Covid, the recent blocking of the Suez Canal, HS2 and demand from other sectors of the industry, and it’s easy to understand the scale of the challenge facing contractors and this remediation process. Looking ahead, despite the lack of materials and labour and the ongoing contractual discussions, we will start to see more recladding projects coming on stream. In fairness, the MHCLG has faced a momentous and complex task, and they should at least be given credit for their genuine efforts to bring the industry together to bring non-specification cladding up to standard but it seems their job is far from complete.


I appreciate that balancing the rights of the taxpayer, managing limited budgets and addressing very complex questions surrounding contractor and landlord liability is not an easy task. However, I fear that the glacial speed of recladding potentially dangerous high-rise buildings has done little to assuage the fears of residents or improve the reputation of the construction industry.


Peter Johnson is founder and chairman of Vivalda Group


ADF SEPTEMBER 2021


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