Whats the cheapest way to fix Islington Wharf’s latent defects?

I don’t write this lightly and been writing it over the last week or so. I recognise I’m privileged owning a place in Manchester with a full time job but this needs talking about.  I also get it will have an effect on housing prices in Islington Wharf but to be honest I’m so sick and tried of the way residents are being treated. Its clear from the amount of times residents have been lied to, this is most likely going to play out in the media. Even our MP (Lucy Powell) being involved hasn’t had the same effect as media attention. Its clear Waterside places like most companies don’t like media attention, especially when they have phase 4 on the line…

 

Imagine you live in a lovely flat in the centre of Manchester. Overlooking east Manchester and phases 2 and the new phases 3. great but like all modern flats there are problem. However the problems are not just problems but actually latent defects.

The lovely floor to ceiling glass walls on 2 sides are heating up the flat to such an extend that during the winter months there is no need for heating; but on the other hand during the summer months turning the flat into a oven with temperatures inside +2-5c on the ambient temperature outside. As its a modern flat, you imagine some air-conditioning, nice large windows, etc…

Dream on!

Lets talk about the heat

The aircon solution
The aircon units solution which is the size of a washing machine

One window per room with a opening distance of about 7-9cms with the safety locks on and 40cms with locks off. Enough you can jump out, which of course is not recommended at 20 stories high. There is a thing called a Airvac which circulates the air around the flat but its very loud and if you are circulating hot air around its not great. Note as there is only one window per room, the only way you can have a proper draft is opening all the doors and windows.

The heat is painful but to be honest I can tolerant it to a certain extent because I face north east from the the sun rises on my flat and before it gets to midday its already gone. This of course doesn’t make much difference when the ambient temperature is high of course. Which is a general latent defect, as anyone can tell you having walked in Islington Wharf’s corridors which has the hot water pipes running along the celling of each one.

The dying plant pots in the extremely hot corridors
The dying plant pots in the extremely hot corridors

As mentioned I am actually doing well because of the position of my flat. Others including neighbours have to put up with +2-5c on top of mine. For example if its 25c outside, it could be closer to 28c in my flat, while my neighbours could be dealing with closer to 32c in their flat!

I have 4 fans in my flat and always have to take off the safety locks to circulate enough air with all the inner doors open. Having the garden is a thankful refuge from the heat. They offered us aircon units as a kind of acknowledgement of the problem with heat but as you can see previously they were the size of washing machines and suited to industry not a 2 bed room flat. You should hear it going!

The temperature modelling/algorithm (we have many) was made for people not working from home during the day (certainly not built for covid19). It was also setup for a professional different couple with no children. Although Islington Wharf has apartments ranging from 1 bedroom to 4 bedrooms duplex’s! Talk about bad data!

Repairing a glass pane again
Repairing a glass pane again at Islington wharf

Its also clear the problem lies with the incredible floor to ceiling glass panes. Those apartments without the glass don’t have such a heat problem. We have found the glass seems to be different if replaced from all the shattering we have had (there has been too many, more than average). We have also noted some of the glass as been installed backwards (the kite-mark is different in different flats)

What about the water?

Water droplets residue on my window frame

I said I am lucky, and I really mean it. Another latent defect is water ingress. In short there is water leaking from all over the buildings. There was a point recently when there was so much water leaking down the emergency staircase it was leaking into the lobby (wish I took a picture).

Others experience drips of water from there windows and there are many cases when it rains (and it does it Manchester a lot). There is water coming down the walls causing damp and unliveable conditions (aka they have had to put up plastic tarpaulin to separate the living space from the wall and in the end been rehoused.

I personally have seen spots of dry water droplets by the window but never experienced anything like the pictures I have seen from others. Theres a video of a patio with the paving stones pulled up and the rain water just gathering there. As you can imagine, most of the time the water leaks down into levels below.

Water damage from a previous flood

The building isn’t just leaking, its flooding in parts every time there is rain. Its clear the building wasn’t constructed in a way to handle rain as this has been happening from day one.

And there is more…

There are many other problems but these are the main ones… But a little reminder Waterside places (use to be ISIS, made up of Muse and the Canal river trust) are also responsible for Islington Wharf Mews, the flats which had no fireproofing! To be fair Islington Wharf did get a mention in the MEN during the Islington Mews scandal.

The M.E.N. reported how Waterside Places had had to evacuate all the residents in its brand new Islington Wharf Mews developments earlier this year after the homes were found to breach fire safety regulations.

Meanwhile over the summer, a huge pane of glass fell 200ft from next door Islington Wharf, with residents warning it was only a ‘matter of time’ before it happened again.

Residents at Islington Wharf, in New Islington, have been engaged in an ongoing battle to get their windows replaced after temperatures repeatedly soared in the summer months. At one stage they had threatened legal action.

Currently the window from which the pane fell in August is still boarded up and Waterside has handed out air conditioning units to the affected apartments.

What about insurance? Let me tell you about insurance!

We recently found out that Zurich/East-West insurance, who cover the insurance for the building went to court last year. The person who worked for Zurich David Mather, had signed off multiple buildings in Manchester and Salford from 2007 – 2011 but had never actually visited the site to do the inspections. In short the building was signed off but 99% sure it was never checked. Had he  visited the Islington wharf building with such extreme heat and water ingress it theres no way it could have been signed off?

There is serious thoughts about putting together a court case on this front but raising the money to start the case is a big problem

Where do we go from here?

After 10+ years of fighting with Waterside places about the latent defects,  they sued the builders Laing O’Rourke, for some unknown amount of money. Now with some unknown amount of money and a judgement call Waterside places has to fix the residents problem (their term not ours) and Laing O’Rourke will be re-doing the work.

This should be great news but of course they are doing it in the cheapest way possible and ignoring the fact we have been fighting them about these latent defects for 10+ years. They actually feel like the savours not the problem.

However they are doing it in the cheapest way they can… in short

  1. They plan to put a UV film on the outer side of all the windows including mine.
  2. They plan to convert all the windows which open into 2 windows which open. For example my one window pane in the living room will be replaced with two windows one on top of the other which can be independently opened
  3.  I can’t get a straight answer out of them about what exactly they will be doing in my flat personally. I’m assuming not much compared to others.

Sounds reasonable right?

A test pane of glass in the garden
A test pane of glass in the garden with the UV film on it. Like that will tell us much over a week.

Lets add all the things you would expect.

  1. There will be zero compensation!
  2. This will take over 2 years and we will be expected to live in the building/site, no moving out temporally
  3. On top of the previous one, we will be expected to share our key with Laing O’Rourke. No clarification of when and how long for.
  4. Laing O’Rourke will turn our communal garden into their workers yard for 2+ years, meaning no garden access. Waterside places don’t want to use the site for phase 4, which was also used for phase 3 (Islington Wharf locks) because they have planning permission and don’t want anything holding up phase 4. So they are passing their lack of action on the latent defects upon us.
  5. Oh and this all starts in the next couple of months!

With all that would you sign a contact allowing this to happen?

The test window in the garden
The test window in the garden with the UV screen, it looks pretty dark but it will survive years of Manchester weather and abseiling window cleaners?

Didn’t think so…

I posed the question of not signing and they (Waterside places) was taken a back like why wouldn’t you sign it? After a while of that awkward silence on the Microsoft Teams conference call (don’t get me started about this), they have no idea what to say. Except there is a clause in our tenancy agreement giving them access in certain circumstances.

As mentioned at the start, this is on going and looking forward, I can only see going public as the way not to be steam rolled into a position which suits them and their budget but will end up massively inconveniencing residents for 2+ years. I’m sure other residents will write their experiences, I’ll be urging them to do it in the public rather than on facebook.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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