Architect John McAslan and engineer Gifford also dragged into dispute

Laing O’Rourke and architect John McAslan + Partners are being sued over claims that defective brickwork on a teaching building has cost the University of Manchester more than £13m.

The case has been rumbling on since 2018 and court papers released last week give the first detailed look at the dispute which centres on work completed 14 years ago.


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The building is part of the main University of Manchester campus on the city’s Oxford Road

The pair were commissioned by the university to design and build three large interconnected blocks, two of which constitute University Place and the third the Jean McFarlane building.

The building is part of the main campus in the Oxford Road area south of the city centre and features a 1,000-seat lecture hall – the city’s largest.

According to the documents, which were part of a cost and claims management conference between the parties, the university claims that O’Rourke’s work was “defective and not carried out in accordance with the Building Contract nor with reasonable skill and care”. It says McAslan is also liable as it should have identified and addressed the problems.

O’Rourke has brought in structural engineer Gifford – the firm responsible for the design of movement joints in the allegedly defective brickwork – to proceedings as a third party.

According to the university, the resulting remedial works initially cost £5.96m but by February 2020 the total figure claimed, which also includes so-called consequential losses, had ballooned to £13.74m – with the university saying it is likely to be higher still.

The documents reveal the university has already racked up more than £1.5m in legal fees and expects that to more than double by the end of the case.

McAslan predicts costs of just over £2m, while O’Rourke estimates it will have to shell out around £2.7m, having already paid out £850,000 to lawyers. Gifford is expected to have legal costs of close to £1m.

Judge Roger ten Haar approved the expected costs and declined the defendants’ request to attach conditions to the permission for the University of Manchester to change its expert witnesses.

O’Rourke and John McAslan + Partners said they were unable to comment on ongoing legal action.

The University of Manchester has been approached for comment.