Adversity can force innovation. It can also exacerbate problems and rifts. Here is a round-up of the most vicious squabbles of the year.
Kohn Pedersen Fox and PLP Architects
In autumn 2009, five directors from KPF, the practice behind the Pinnacle and the Heron Tower, left to set up their own firm, PLP. This prompted KPF founding partner, 79-year-old Gene Kohn, to fly to the UK to head up the London office himself. In an interview with Building in April, Kohn proved that relations with the “breakaway five” were still far from rosy. He said: “Unfortunately they [the five] released the news of the offer to the press and told staff before they discussed it with us. It caused uproar with clients, who were upset and wanted to know what was happening. You don’t air your dirty laundry until you have resolved it.”
In a further interview with three of the breakaway five in September, the response from Lee Polisano was: “We’re not in competition with KPF - even if they are with us.”
The Candys and Qatari Diar
This was one of the most high-profile property court cases of the year, as squabbling over the Chelsea Barracks development continued following the ruckus between Richard Rogers and Prince Charles last year. It was round two in the Chelsea Barracks saga in 2010 as the court case between the real estate investment arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and Christian Candy’s UK development firm CPC Group dominated headlines in the first half of the year. CPC Group attempted to sue Qatari Diar for up to £81m for breach of contract after the application was withdrawn. In June, solicitors acting for the Candy Brothers accused Chelsea Barracks developer Qatari Diar of purposefully deleting emails which would have helped in the brothers’ ongoing legal fight over the £1bn development. In July it was announced that CPC Group had won the case as Judge Geoffrey Vos ruled that Qatari Diar had breached its contract with CPC and must pay damages in an amount to be determined later.
Timber and fire …
Timber frame has taken a beating over the course of 2010. Things got off to a bad start only eight days into the year when a half-built Greenacres development in Camberwell, south London, burned to the ground. As the year progressed, there were several dramatic fires in half-built timber-frame developments including one in Glasgow in August, another in Basingstoke in September and one in County Durham in October. Official statistics published in August by the communities department proved once and for all that when a fire occurs in a half-built timber-framed building much more damage occurs than in structures built from other materials.
Meanwhile, in March, insurers started getting nervous about the risks of disproportionate damage from fire in completed timber-framed buildings, saying the day could come when they refused cover. A legal claim brought by an insurer in October could start the ball rolling. Brit Insurance Holdings is claiming £2.6m claim against Taylor Wimpey for loss of two occupied timber-framed apartment blocks in June 2008.
RICS and the QS members group
In September it was reported that Stuart Earl was to quit as chair of the RICS’ QS members board, partly as a result of a row that had been rumbling on for months. In May the RICS’ QS group chaired by Earl, a partner in Gleeds, drafted a five-page letter to the RICS governing council which set out a number of grievances, including a new reporting line for QSs within the RICS and a perceived lowering of standards for obtaining chartered QS status.