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Clients demand Lafarge cement warranties


CLIENTS HAVE this week started demanding warranties from readymix suppliers following Lafarge's admission that it supplied them with substandard cement over the last two years.

The warranties would cover the cost of repairing or replacing structures containing the high alkali Lafarge cement.

It is expected that Lafarge will have to carry the cost of providing these.

Consultants have also been advised to tell construction team members if they suspect projects they are involved in have included the sub-standard product.

It is understood that major highways structures and a large basement are among the projects affected (News last week).

'Rogue staff' at Lafarge's Westbury works in Wiltshire deliberately falsifi ed test certificates for a special high performance CEM 1 cement supplied to local readymix and precast concrete producers.

These fake certificates concealed production failures at the plant which had caused alkali levels in the cement to exceed the agreed safe levels.

The high alkali cement went into approximately 4M. m 3 of concrete between September 2002 and December 2004.

Mixes with a high content of the Westbury cement are now at long term risk of an expansive reaction between the cement alkalis and reactive silica in the aggregates.

'Clients who now fi nd they have this suspect concrete in their projects have every legal right to demand some form of warranty or indemnity from Lafarge, ' said Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) legal advisor Georgina Linton.

'And some may be able to insist on demolition and replacement - they will certainly be well within their rights to demand this.' The ACE is advising its members 'who have reason to believe' that the non-complying cement could have been used in their projects to inform the rest of the project team in writing.

It also urged its members to contact their insurers and legal advisors.

oncrete producers are expected to be the initial focus of claims.

'We have informed all the customers who we believe have concrete that is at risk, ' confi med British Ready Mixed Concrete Association technical director Tom Harrison.

'Many of them are demanding some sort of warranty or indemnity against increased maintenance costs or reduced life, as well as long term monitoring.

'All this will have to be passed on to Lafarge, ' he added. 'Intensive discussions on the commercial and legal implications of the situation are taking place, and the readymix industry should have an agreed common position for negotiations with the cement industry very shortly.' This could well include a demand for a return of the BSI Kitemark scheme (see box).

Meanwhile, major clients and client organisations are considering their positions. A statement from the Highways Agency said it 'had met with Lafarge to better understand the implications of this issue'.

And a spokesman for Wiltshire County Council said: 'If there's a problem we envisage that the County Surveyors Society will take action on behalf of all affected local authorities.'

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