Investigation and action for safety's sake

In May 2017 the newly constructed car park of Eindhoven Airport partly collapsed. Naturally an investigation followed, the results of which became known recently: the collapse was caused due to construction errors with respect to the use of prefab concrete floor slabs with balls. The findings caused a commotion in the real estate sector.

The construction method that was used in the car park of Eindhoven Airport has been used in buildings in the Netherlands for many years. The use of the concrete floor slabs itself does not necessarily form a risk – the defects are the result of incorrect implementation and supervision. A possible safety risk has been reason for a number of owners to carry out investigations. For instance, the Erasmus University Rotterdam cleared one of its buildings with immediate effect in order to carry out an investigation, the Windesheim university of applied sciences in Zwolle carried out a technical inspection and the Overijssel District Court is investigating whether or not the floors in the property were constructed in accordance with the required standards.

The realisation of a construction project involves many parties. For instance, the commissioning party, architect, other consultants, contractor, subcontractor and supplier. The collapse of a building leads to the question of which party or parties is or are liable therefor. One of the first questions asked in order to determine the liability will be what went wrong and what was the cause thereof, followed by the question of which party is liable for that error and, finally, the question of what contractual agreements had been made with respect to the liability. Due to the involvement of multiple parties in the construction chain it is not always easy to determine which party or parties is or are liable and to what extent.

Managers and owners of property in the Netherlands would be wise to find out whether or not the construction method in question was used. If that is the case, it is recommended that they investigate whether or not the property in question complies with all safety standards or whether or not measures have to be taken. In the latter case a legal analysis is required to determine whether or not a third party can be held accountable for the defect and the loss.