The owners of a building in Leeds with a flammable coating spent £ 6million to make it safe

Waterside resident Dr. Bruce Carnie is pleased with the work LaSalle has done

Waterside resident Dr. Bruce Carnie is pleased with the work LaSalle has done

It has been almost four years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy and yet the flammable coating that wreaked havoc and 72 deaths is still present on hundreds of residential buildings.

While the government has recently pledged to fund the replacement of unsafe coatings in apartment buildings 18 meters or larger and to provide long-term loans for the replacement of coatings in low-rise apartment buildings, activists are beat.

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They want the loan scheme scrapped and need financing to address other structural fire safety issues, such as insufficient fire breaks and wooden balconies. The anger, frustration, fear and financial hardship felt by those trapped in the coating continues. They bought their homes in good faith and are now forced to pay huge bills to landowners for higher insurance costs and fire watch patrols. Selling is not a viable option. But as the scandal mired in misery, rare good news has emerged in Yorkshire.

LaSalle Investment Management is believed to be the first institutional landlord to lease to make a dilapidated building safe and with minimal impact on residents. The company, which invests in real estate on behalf of pension funds, has just completed a manual remediation of Waterside Apartments, a tower of 183 rental apartments built by Mayfair Developments in 2005 on Gotts Road in Leeds.

A nationwide review after the Grenfell fire showed the riverside building to have flammable aluminum composite panels. It also appeared that fire breaks and wooden balconies were a problem as well. No time was wasted and no expense was spared on a project to secure the 40-meter-high building. The final bill was over £ 6million, revealing the terrifying cost of the coatings scandal.

With the well-being of residents and long-term rental income in mind, LaSalle chose not to hang around for possible government funding and instead bore the multi-million pound bill herself.

Martin Zdravkov, fund manager of LaSalle Investment Management, says: “We looked at government funding in 2018, but we chose to do the job ourselves unfettered because we wanted to do it quickly. We did a cost-benefit analysis on getting a government grant or paying for the work ourselves and it showed that what we did was better for the building, better for the tenants who are our clients and better for the investment fund.

It took a year to establish a relining method that would least disturb residents and to assemble a crew to complete the work. Rather than the cheapest and fastest method of scaffolding an entire building and wrapping it in aluminum foil while the job is done, LaSalle decided to use mast climbers, which are flat -forms that go up a vertical mast. This allows the fuel panels to be removed and replaced one at a time.

“It takes a little longer, but it meant residents could still enjoy the light and the views and that was really important in the lockdown. We have also improved the insulation, replaced the wood in the balconies with a non-combustible material and solved the problems encountered with the firebreaks, ”explains Zdravkov. “We are really delighted because the renovations have improved tenant satisfaction and the look and feel of the building.

Work began in September 2019 and was completed in December 2020. The project manager for the repair work was MHBC Cumming, the structural engineering company was Fairhurst and the prime contractor was Clegg Construction.

For property owners who are considering using public funds to replace siding, Mr. Zdravkov has this advice: “Finding siding contractors is not easy because they are scarce and the demand is high. It is very important to have an experienced team and to employ a project manager for advice, to negotiate prices and to supervise the work. MHBC did a brilliant job.

Waterside Apartments resident Dr Bruce Carnie, Senior Lecturer at Leeds University, is pleased with the outcome and says: “Because the owners covered the costs, we didn’t have to wait for the work be done. Some people have been going through a terribly anxious time and I am aware of it, so I consider myself absolutely very lucky. I hope that perhaps some of the positive points that have come out of what happened with this building and that this model of action can be taken up by other buildings.

Abi Tubis of the protest group Leeds Cladding Scandal says: “What LaSalle has done is fantastic. If only every owner of a building with a flammable coating would do the right thing. The reality is that most don’t care. It has been almost four years since the Grenfell fire and recently announced government funding to replace the siding will only make buildings partially safe.

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