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De-Ciphering a complex property repair puzzle

Cipher UK takes on its most complicated and complex project to date and solves a long running head ache for a client.

Complex property repair

Cipher UK’s largest tender project to date was a complex property repair. It involved:

  • hundreds of residents (including home owners, tenants and management companies),
  • more than 40 tradesmen and subcontractors,
  • 13 specialist contractors and manufacturers,
  • local police and land owners.

It also involved working at height in multiple locations which creates health and safety issues and a restricted environment in which to work.

Springfield scaffolding

There were also complex scaffolding requirements for four separate balconies that were located at different locations in the block of flats. Designing and erecting the scaffolding involved negotiations with a separate land owner adjacent to the site, and a complicated redesign of the scaffolding  part way through the project.

Springfield scaffolding 1

The challenge

In 2014 we were appointed to carry out leak prevention works to a number of properties in a development of flats in the South East.

Construction failures in several balconies had lead to water ingress and damage to properties below. Several remedial schemes had already failed.

Following a non-intrusive investigation, a programme of works was developed by the client to correct defects in the cavity trays for four balconies, replace asphalt and render, and repair water damage. It was agreed that work would start on just one balcony to determine if the cause of the problems had been correctly identified. Then the programme of works could be modified if necessary. Demolition and strip out of the first balcony revealed many defects:

  • No insulation to the balconies.
  • Poorly installed cavity trays.
  • Asphalt had run through voids causing the cavity trays to melt and thus leak.

Cavity tray

New building repair scheme

We quickly identified that a completely new, and more complicated, building design scheme would be needed. And we had to ensure that we got it right first time.

Extra pressure came from the client wanting a fixed price with no variations and an extended guarantee period (six years): we had to consider all possible outcomes to ensure that the fixed price was sufficient to cover all of our costs to complete the works.

We needed to design a scheme incorporating a Bauder waterproof system that could be guaranteed to not fail in the future. Each balcony had been constructed differently so each one needed its own bespoke design scheme. And the balconies were spread out all over the development.

New cavity trays had to be manufactured to precise specifications for each balcony. We had to design 30 bespoke components for the new cavity trays alone.

As a result of the new design we could not rebuild the parapet walls as existing – they had to be redesigned with structural supports to comply with building regulations, creating a need for bespoke wind posts. We also had to trim the existing concrete slabs.

The new design scheme was finally approved by the client at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The residents

Managing and reassuring hundreds of residents on a complex project like this is a challenge, especially when they have already endured several failed remedial schemes over the previous 8 years.

Not only did we have to get in contact with each home owner and tenant to explain the planned remedial scheme but we also had to keep them regularly informed of progress and address any concerns they had. We wrote to them all and followed the letters up with door knocks and meetings.

We were able to provide the residents with a 24/7 hotline which they could call at any time of the day or night if they had any concerns about the project.

One concern for the residents related to security as a result of there being extensive scaffolding around the development. We appointed a security guard to alleviate their concerns and made sure the site was as secure as it could be at all times.

The works involved a lot of disuption and inconvenience for the residents, especially as they were taking place during the coldest part of the year. We had to put measures in place to keep some of their homes warm while they were without some wall insulation.

Project management

A project of this size needed some serious project management skills.


Luckily Cipher UK has some very experienced construction project managers who were able to:

  • Predict all possible outcomes and develop plans and costs for each.
  • Work with architects and engineers on design plans and modifications.
  • Liaise with over 50 contractors, specialist contractors, suppliers and manufacturers to co-ordinate the design and ordering of materials to minimise delays.
  • Monitor the plan and timelines and adjust them for unforeseen delays, keeping the project on track.
  • Co-ordinate weekly meetings with all parties both on site and in the office to review and adjust the programme.
  • Communicate with and reassure the hundreds of residents affected by the works.
  • Carry out Health and Safety management on site, tool box talks, CDM compliance, on site induction sessions and co-ordination of subcontracted trades and specialists.
  • Weekly reporting to the client and residents.


Other challenges

Most of the building work took place during January, February and March 2015. Cold temperatures and short days made the project even more challenging.

Not only did we have to find ways of keeping residents homes warm, we also had to protect materials whenever the temperature fell below 5°C. Once frost gets into external materials such as render and mortar, the materials become damaged and have to be replaced.

With a tight timescale we had to ensure that the trades could work full days, even though it got dark early, so we had to rig up lighting for them.

The Christmas holidays put additional pressure on the timetable too.

We had to source materials that matched the existing materials in the development. We had to get manufacturers to identify the materials previously used, as no records or information on these was available. We then had to scour the country finding the materials and then get them approved by the client.

And finally, we had to gain access to the site across a third party’s land. We agreed a licence to use their land up to the end of March – any over-runs were to incur significant penalties. So this put even more pressure on the time table, especially as the deadline of 31st March loomed ever closer.

Success story

The project was completed on time and to budget.

On 31st March we were able to take down the last of the scaffolding and finish tidying up the site.

The residents in this block of flats are delighted with the results and are starting to enjoy their balconies now that the warmer weather is approaching.

Springfield finished balcony  Springfield finished balcony1

And our client is delighted too – a significant problem that had been hanging over their heads for many years had now been resolved. And it was done for a fixed price with no variations or surprises.

And Cipher UK has demonstrated its exceptional technical and project management expertise.

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For all sales enquiries please contact Alex Kilpatrick on 0333 006 8001 or email alex.kilpatrick@cipher.uk.com
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