Pyrite remediation works finally begin

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After years of delays and hardship, progress is being made repairing and refurbishing homes in the Carleton House and Belmayne area of Dublin which were found to contain pyrite damage upon completion.

Buildings in these areas form part of what was a widespread scandal involving the substandard construction of a large number of social housing projects and community facilities in Dublin.

In a report to Dublin City Council’s (DCC) North Central Area Committee, Derek Farrell, Area Housing manager, stated that pyrite remediation works have just begun on two buildings in the Carleton Hall complex, with negotiations still ongoing for further works to be carried out on a créche and a community hall.

Peter Finnegan, senior structural engineer at the architects division of DCC, estimated the cost of repairing the two buildings was €140,000. The approximate cost of repairs to the créche will be €400,000. No estimate for repair costs to the community hall were available.

Seventeen houses in the Belmayne area are owned by DCC and require remediation works for pyrite. Mr. Farrell said that after protracted negotiations with the insurance company that covers these properties, the council has agreed works to begin on seven of the sites. Only one family has been relocated to temporary accommodation in order to facilitate the remediation works.

Much of the delay, according to Dublin City Council and Derek Farrell, has been due to complex negotiations with insurance companies and the building developers of the affected properties. The council admitted that there was very little hope of recouping any of the cost of repairs from the developers of the property meaning that the council would have to cover these.

In January of 2016 the estimated cost of the pyrite remediation repairs to properties in nine estates in Dublin was €7 million, this figure by the end of 2016 had jumped to €11 million. It is impossible to know what the total end cost of repairs to all affected properties will be. Many unforeseeable costs can arise over the course of a project of this nature, as well as added costs to known expenses, such as accommodation for families, DCC staff pay, sampling and testing of sites, surveying, the repairs themselves and so on.

In a memo to DCC regarding recouping costs on the remediation works, Peter Finnegan wrote: “It remains open to DCC in most cases to pursue the original contractor under the contract. These disputes are known to require a lot of resources and time and the outcome is far from certain. I am aware of three disputes that have been pursued through the courts against the quarry that supplied the original stone and that these have been vigorously defended and appealed at great cost to all parties. The only remedial works for DCC currently being funded by an insurance company (Premier Guarantee) are those at Belmayne. DCC still incur some residual costs on these, which are being dealt with on a case by case basis.”

Pyrite is a mineral more commonly known as fool’s gold. It has had many uses throughout history but now it is mainly used in the paper industry and in the production of sulphuric acid. When pyrite is present in building materials, and over time as these materials are exposed to oxygen, the material strains and weakens considerably, leading to cracks, structural damage and structural weakness.

pyrite.png
Pyrite leads to cracks and structural damage. Source Flickr

Following the pyrite scandal, the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 was signed into law in December 2013. This sets out the legal basis for the operation for a compensation scheme operated by the Pyrite Resolution Board. This scheme only applies to dwellings, but excludes dwellings owned by a local authority.

By Chris Kelly

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