Council estate rife with mould and damp


UP TO 400 local authority houses in west Dublin, which were built between four and seven years ago and won architectural design awards, now have problems with damp, mould, leaks, cracks, crumbling plaster, electrical faults and sewage.

South Dublin County Council is in “contractual dispute” with builders Gama Construction Ireland, for “a serious contribution” towards the cost of resolving maintenance issues with tenants in the Balgaddy area about “repairs . . . including window sashes, roof flashings and external plaster cracks”.

A number of tenants from Buirg an Rí, Meile an Rí and Tor and Rí estates have been rehoused while a firm of solicitors is holding a public meeting in the area tomorrow night to advise people on how to “enforce [their] rights as tenants” against the council.

Solicitor Eugene Smartt said he had acted on behalf of a number of residents in the area and the council had “either settled with my clients, or rehoused them”.

“This is a public information meeting for tenants. I think they must have the patience of saints to have put up with these living conditions for so long”.

In one home seen by The Irish Timesduring a visit to the area last week, there were mushrooms the size of fists growing in a bathroom, while in the adjacent bedroom dark-green and black mould growing a metre up the wall had forced the householder to move his bed into the kitchen.

Twelve homes were visited by The Irish Times last week, all with severe damp problems, water marks on walls, mould and mildew, while damp patches were visible on the exterior walls of at least half of all houses. Plasterwork on dividing pillars was crumbling away like sand exposing metal grills beneath.

Balgaddy “urban village” was designed by two architecture firms in 2001 to include social, voluntary and private affordable dwellings, on the fringes of Clondalkin. One phase of the scheme was awarded “best housing design” in the 2004 Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland awards.

Local councillor Gino Kenny said 60 per cent of calls from constituents about housing problems were from Balgaddy. “The place is riddled with problems,” he said.

Gama Construction won the tender to construct the houses and these were completed in a number of phases in 2004 and 2007.

Jim Ansboro, claims manager with Gama Ireland, said construction had been overseen by the firm’s own structural engineers, as well as quantity surveyors from the council and that completion certificates were “ultimately signed by the architects”.

Eddie Conroy, the county council architect, said the schemes had been “supervised on site by well-regarded architectural consultants”.

“Council clerks of works monitored the schemes during construction and compliances were signed by the consultant architects Murray O’Laoire and Sean Harrington Architects.”

The architects involved in the projects did not want to comment directly on the Balgaddy situation but both said although they had periodic inspection roles, they did not have supervisory roles.

John Graby, director of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, said while an architect had a responsibility to design in compliance with regulations, the builder had a legal obligation to comply with building regulations.

“When there is a systemic problem with a building project it may be due to bad design, bad workmanship, bad materials or a combination of these. The key thing is that the cause must be established.” He said the situation underlined the need for the establishment of a buildings inspectorate by the Department of the Environment, to ensure building works were complying with building regulations.

Mr Conroy said a “dedicated team” had been established by the council to “address this growing problem” of damp and condensation in Balgaddy.

“A dedicated construction team under the direction of the county architect will commence work in the area in the coming fortnight targeting particular building issues until these are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”