Contractor Must Pay £14.7 Million after Glass Panels Plunge into Street

Construction contracts can go horribly wrong, but few can have been as disastrous as one prestige office development which culminated in giant panes of glass falling into the street, putting the lives of passers-by at risk. The events triggered a storm of damaging national publicity and a High Court case in which a design and build contractor was ordered to pay over £14.7 million in damages.

The site was in a prime location and its owner had employed the contractor to carry out an extensive redevelopment that was designed to attract high-end tenants for 320,000 square feet of office space and 6,400 square feet of retail space. Following completion, however, there was, without any warning, a series of 17 spontaneous failures of glass panels that had been used to clad the new building.

Some of the shattered panels remained in place and could be safely removed, but others plunged down towards street level. In the event, no one was seriously hurt, but disfiguring scaffolding had to be erected around the entire building for a prolonged period and the incidents made waves in the national press.

In upholding the owner’s claim against the contractor, the Court found amongst other things that at least 35 per cent of the toughened glass panels had not been heat soaked in accordance with the contract. The panels had begun to fail almost immediately and did not meet the 30-year service life specified in the contract. The contractor was ordered to pay a total of £14,753,195 in damages, including more than £8.7 million in re-glazing costs and almost £1.9 million for remedial works.