Contractor alleges URS failed to alert it that steel structures had `inadequate resistance to fatigue’


Contractor Costain has lodged a £10m-plus High Court claim against engineer URS over an alleged failure to spot design defects on a £300m energy-from-waste facility in south London.

The claim relates to design problems on the Riverside Resource Recovery Facility in Belvedere, which burns rubbish to power 100,000 homes.

Costain was design and build contractor on the plant, working for the overall engineering, procurement and construction contractor, Swiss- based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI).

According to Costain’s claim, filed at the High Court and seen by Building, URS was hired by Costain to provide “design and tech support services” on the scheme, including independently checking designs for the plant’s civil engineering works produced by engineer Jacobs.

According to the claim, URS allegedly failed to alert Costain that Jacobs’ designs for steel supports to two grab cranes, which transfer waste into containers leading to furnaces, would not be able to withstand the effects of fatigue for the intended design life of 40 years.

Separate engineers contracted by HZI judged their design life to be shorter than required due to “inadequate resistance to fatigue”, resulting in the structures being replaced at a cost of £6.1m, according to Costain.

In the claim, Costain said it had resolved separate disputes with HZI and Jacobs over the scheme. Costain said it had settled a claim made by HZI for £6.8m, while Costain had separately “successfully pursued” Jacobs for damages at an adjudication, in which it was awarded “losses up to the contractual cap contained in [Jacobs’] design contract of £2m”.

Costain’s claim for loss and damages against URS includes the £6.8m settlement paid to HZI, the £6.1m cost of remedial works, and £406,000 of legal costs incurred defending HZI’s claim. The value of URS’ original contract with Costain on the scheme was £195,000.

HZI declined to comment. Costain, Jacobs and URS were contacted for comment. The case with URS is ongoing.