Sunday, July 22, 2012

A triumph of modern architecture

The cost of repairing broken window blinds at London’s iconic City Hall, which houses the offices of Mayor Boris Johnson, is set to top £730,000.

The glass-clad building on the South Bank of the Thames – which was designed by architect Norman Foster and is one of the capital’s landmarks – has suffered from defective blinds for years, hampering efforts to clean its windows.

The bulk of the costs of the repairs are being met under an insurance policy. But the Greater London Authority (GLA) must contribute almost £100,000 in taxpayers’ money – under an excess clause in the policy and for work that it does not cover.

The specially designed roman blinds sit between two panes of glass and should open and close to regulate the amount of light coming into the building, known as the ‘beehive’. Window cleaners are able to open the outside panes and can normally remove the blinds to wash off the grime on the inside pane.

But City Hall insiders say dozens of blinds have stuck, meaning that the inside surfaces of many of the windows cannot be reached. They complain that the cost of cleaning the 3,000-plus panes of glass that clad the building has now topped £12,000 a month, but many are still filthy.

The GLA, which is jointly responsible for the building with developers More London, initially considered legal action against the Swiss company that installed the blinds when the building was constructed a decade ago, but it is no longer in business.

They have now employed a specialist firm to repair or replace the damaged blinds and other broken parts of the windows at an estimated cost of £733,000. The GLA has agreed to pay £72,000 towards the excess on the insurance claim and another £25,000 for further work on the windows that is not covered by the policy.

It said in an official document: ‘There will be a positive impact from these works where windows that have not been properly cleaned for many years will now become accessible, improving the overall appearance of City Hall. ‘Without taking necessary steps to rectify the faults with the building facade, further degradation of the window units will occur.’

More London Estate Management said: ‘The original contractor went into liquidation – but fortunately the developer and the GLA were fully insured against such an eventuality. ‘The necessary repairs are being effected under this insurance following collaboration between the developer and the GLA.’

But Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly group, said: ‘It is amazing that a glass building was built only ten years ago with so little thought given to how the windows could be cleaned and maintained. It shows the real price of when design is considered everything.’

The GLA declined to comment.

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