Consultant hits back at education department’s High Court claim over flagship Westminster project

BDP has hit back against the Department for Education’s legal claim against it over problems at Westminster Academy, arguing that faults and cost overruns were caused in part by Galliford Try and Davis Langdon.

The joint £3m claim against BDP by the department and the academy, revealed in full by Building last week, said staff and pupils had been sent home because of “unbearable” temperatures resulting from ventilation design failures.

It also argued that BDP’s “negligent breach of duty” in providing design information caused delays and budget overruns on the project (pictured) and resulted in cost claims by contractor Galliford Try and project manager Capita Symonds.

But in a 70-page defence and counterclaim lodged at the High Court, BDP - which acted as design team lead consultant and contract administrator on the £28m flagship school - alleged that there had been “defective workmanship” on the ventilation system by Galliford Try and that QS Davis Langdon had provided “poor advice on cost projections”.

In the document, BDP also insisted it had not been overpaid. It counterclaimed for more than £700,000 for additional work it said the firm had carried out.

Because of the proximity of the nearby M40, Westminster Academy’s facade is sealed, with a ventilation system designed to compensate for this through four roof-mounted air-handling units, which would supply air into raised floor voids via shafts.

BDP’s defence admitted that there had been complaints of overheating since the building opened in 2007 but said such problems were caused by “construction and maintenance defects rather than any inherent design flaw”.

It said the collapse of plasterboard partitions within the risers had initially impeded air flow and claimed the floor voids had leaked due to “defective” construction.

The defence also denied the client’s claim that temperatures had exceeded 30ºC and said the ventilation system had been largely fixed following a “prolonged investigation” by BDP.
Addressing cost overruns during construction, BDP argued that it had carried out its role with “reasonable care and skill” as had architect and sub-consultant AHMM.

But it said DL had failed to monitor costs “competently during the development of the design”, resulting in a sudden and unexpected increase in costs and a value engineering exercise.
A Davis Langdon spokesperson said: “We have successful ongoing relationships with both parties and do not wish to comment.”

A Galliford Try spokesman said: “Galliford Try is not involved in any legal action relating to this project … [It] is confident that the work undertaken by the company on this project was carried out to a high standard.”

The case continues.