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911 Suspended ceiling collapse in high-rise tower block

Report ID: 911

Published: Newsletter 58 - April 2020

Report Overview

Concerns are raised about where designers duties lie in certain contractual relationships.

Report Content

A reporter is involved with replacing MDF ceilings (15mm thick heavy panels) on a 30+ storey UK tower block. The work was triggered by fears following a few loose panel falls, in one case resulting in a minor injury. What emerges says the reporter is:

  1. Ceiling detailed design is typically a contractor/installer designed portion (CDP).
  2. Typical generic manufacturers’ details need modifying to suit a given building.
  3. There is effectively no structural engineer involvement, with the architect being expected to define the characteristics and the sub-contractor expected to complete the design and installation. The checking duties of the architect of the CDP are unclear.
  4. Services access panels can be removed and not reinstalled properly (there can be landlord's common area services and leaseholder flat owners who have different companies doing maintenance).

When the reporter has queried in the past with quantity surveyors about what they need to do with CDPs, for example CDP for steel connection design, they are told to do nothing, seemingly because when a CDP is identified in a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) contract, it is a way of packaging up design development/cost/risk. The JCT/CDP seems to ignore a designer’s legal duties defined in their agreement.


Ceilings may appear to be minor items that can just be delegated to ‘installation’. However, CROSS has published numerous reports of heavy ceiling cascade failures which represent a credible safety hazard. To find these go to the www.structural-safety.org website and enter “ceiling” in the Quick search Keyword box. Over forty reports will be shown.

There is generic hazard with any suspended structure. The SCOSS Alert Tension systems and post-drilled fixings may be consulted for advice on fixings. Other sources of information are the CFA (Construction Fixings Association) and BS8539:2012 (Code of practice for the selection and installation of post-installed anchors in concrete and masonry).

This report has similarities with cladding report 904 when design is passed down the chain, standard designs may be modified on site, and no one is responsible to check that the final solution meets the required standards.


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View other CROSS reports published in Newsletter 58

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