Monday 16 July 2018

Balcony defects, damp, mould and fire safety issues uncovered in prestigious boom-time development

Problems including balcony defects, persistent leaks, and fire safety issues have been uncovered at Spencer Dock development (main picture: Colin O'Riordain)
Problems including balcony defects, persistent leaks, and fire safety issues have been uncovered at Spencer Dock development (main picture: Colin O'Riordain)
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock showing an example of condensation.
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock showing an example of window issues found in some apartments.
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock showing an example of silverfish - a common pest which was found in one apartment
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock looking at balcony soffits
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock looking at balcony soffits
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock showing water ingress
An image taken during a survey of Spencer Dock showing window issues
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A raft of problems including balcony defects, persistent leaks, and fire safety issues have been uncovered at one of the Celtic Tiger’s most prominent developments.

A series of recent inspections across more than 150 apartments in the six-block Spencer Dock development have uncovered a number of issues thought to be, in part, the result of construction failings.

The Dublin Docklands development, was completed in 2007, and in the early stages of the development some properties fetched more than half a million euro.

Billed as a "truly metropolitan place to live" during the boom – with some of the penthouses, complete with pool terraces, completed just as the economy nosedived, in 2008 – buyers bought into the complex expecting luxury living.

The development, was a project led by Treasury Holdings and John Sisk and Son construction firm in a joint venture known as Construction Management Partnership.

Today Independent.ie can reveal that:

  • Issues discovered by quantity surveyors include window issues, balcony issues, leaks, condensation, fire alarm issues
  • 103 apartments showed deterioration of or damage to window frames due to water ingress (where water has infiltrated the fabric of the building).
  • A third of the apartments checked  by Omega showed damage from water ingress to apartment finishes.
  • Problems were also uncovered with the balconies in a number of apartments.
  • Tenants and residents of Spencer Dock have also complained of a sewerage smell throughout their apartment.
  • The decibel level of the fire alarm was “inadequate” in the apartments.
  • Residents also complained of a bug infestation from bugs called silverfish which need wet and humid conditions to thrive.
  • Receivers EY told a Dublin TD in 2016 the works needed were “standard” for a 12-year-old development.
  • Sales of apartments in the development were blocked for a time in a bid to speed up remedial works on a number of apartments.

Apartment owners now fear that the remaining 39 apartments which are owned by NAMA appointed receiver EY will be sold off and residents will be left footing the bill for remedial works.

Property owners bought into the development have described the “nightmare” of trying to have the issues corrected.

One property owner, who owns three apartments in the complex – including one as a home  – has issues in two of his apartments.

However, despite remedial works being carried out earlier this year he is still out of his home due to new leaks appearing.

Another owner who purchased two apartments in the development as buy-to-let investments has spent the past seven years dealing with leaks and other issues.

An initial survey of 162 apartments (completed as of September 20 2017) by Omega Surveying Services uncovered a significant number of issues.

During the inspections carried out up to September smells were noted in 21 apartments (13pc) of those inspected. Others complained of smells but none were detected on the day.

Proteus Consulting Engineers also carried out fire safety checks and found that the decibel level of the fire alarm was “inadequate” in the apartments.

Other issues were noted in a preliminary investigation.

Residents also complained of a bug infestation from bugs called silverfish which need wet and humid conditions to thrive.

In the first round of inspections silverfish were found in one apartment and were noted as a “major” occurrence. A further 21pc of apartment owners had complained of silverfish but no live examples were observed by inspectors. The bugs are a common pest Omega noted and can be treated with chemical sprays.

A small number of apartments also complained of one room being much colder than others and “large gaps” were found in plasterboard.

Mould and condensation was also a problem for 65pc of properties inspected.

On November 1 Indigo Property Management issued letter to apartment owners informing them that 200 surveys had been carried out and it had been decided to survey all apartments.

This website has also seen correspondence sent on behalf of receivers to Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan which confirmed that remedial works were to be carried out in July 2016 on 10 apartments, including penthouses.

The email also said:

“The joint receivers property manager has advised that the required works are standard for a 12 year old development”

However, in a presentation to residents, surveying firm Omega noted a number of causes for the defects found.

In the case of damage to windows and water ingress the experts evaluating the damage to windows were critical of the “quality if design, material used and attention to detail during construction”.

“The poor quality detailing and installation of the windows, in particular the EPDM membrane, is a significant cause of water ingress,” the report states.

“This is compounded by the lack of proper provision for effective drainage paths at spandrel panels and also between timber frames.”

According to the firm a “substantial” portion of the staining was a result of the same issue causing damage to the windows, but internal plumbing issues were also identified.

“We have also seen instances of water ingress following the failure of balcony and roofing membranes of the units above,” the report says.

In a statement to Independent.ie a spokesperson for John Sisk & Son said they had not seen the Omega report and were not in a position to comment on it.

"The Spencer Dock development was completed and occupied since 2007," a spokesman for the firm said.

"Sisk has carried out remedial works in recent times, and it is our clear position that none of the issues have arisen as a result of construction faults.

"Sisk is Ireland's leading construction company and we stand over the quality of our work on all our projects. Our reputation for quality construction is well known in the industry and something we maintain through a relentless focus on quality at every level of the construction process. We have well embedded procedures which are constantly being updated to reflect current best practice and the needs of building regulations.

"We will not be commenting any further."

NAMA said it was not in a position to comment and referred to the receivers at EY.

“Luke Charleton and David Hughes at EY are Joint Receivers, currently controlling 39 apartments out of a total of approximately 600 units in the Spencer Dock development. Any matters brought to the attention of the Joint Receivers relating to any of these apartments are dealt with via the appropriate parties and channels," EY said in a statement.

Indigo property management company have also been contacted for comment.

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