Construction workers viewing a drawing

The biggest blunders in UK construction

15 July 2019

In the words of Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”.  Unfortunately, construction is one of those industries, that if something goes wrong, it can go wrong big time.

We have taken a look at some of the most high profile, expensive construction blunders, so that hopefully you will never make the same mistake!

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium faced many setbacks during its 3 year construction. The London club hoped to have their stadium ready to face Liverpool on the 15th September 2018, but a multitude of mistakes led to the stadium opening in March 2019, 6 months behind schedule.

Builders had installed 15,000 seats into the stadium, but soon realised that the seats had not been coated in a formula which would have helped the seats keep their colour in poor weather. As a result, all 15,000 seats had to be removed, and replaced.

A problem with the pitch size left players with little room to take corners, because of how close the pitch is to the ad boards around the pitch.   

The opening of the stadium was also delayed because of a faulty fire system, which had to be fixed before the stadium could be opened to crowds.

The icing on the cake came when the stadium was nearly finished and typos were spotted on signage and marketing material. Signs around the stadium read “London Academy of Exellence”, missing the C from excellence and promotional posters were displayed on the London Underground, inviting customers to have a “VR experience for new premum packages at”.

All of these mistakes had led to huge delays and frustrations for the football club, with building costs running over £1bn.

Tower cranes surround a stadium in London

Millenium Stadium, Cardiff

In 1999, the Rugby World Cup (RWC) was hosted by Wales, with support from the other Five Nations teams; England, France, Ireland and Scotland. 7 of the 41 RWC games were held at the newly built Millennium Stadium, including the opening game and final, but construction of the project didn’t go smoothly. Disputes with landowners Cardiff Rugby Football Club, constant delays and construction costs led to a £34m loss for Laing Construction. The final cost of building the stadium reached £121m.

To help fund the construction, Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) took a loan of £60m, putting them into a serious amount of debt. The roofing contractor, Kelsey Roofing, also went into administration in January 2005.

Construction was so delayed on the project, that it was joked that kick-off for the opening game was at 5pm because they were still laying the pitch at 3pm.

A stadium in Cardiff

The Walkie-Talkie

The skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street, London, got its name from its distinctive shape, which unfortunately landed the building with the Carbuncle Award, for the ugliest building in the UK. Construction on the site finished in 2014, but there had been a particular problem whilst the building was being erected.

The building had several windows which acted as a mirror, reflecting the sun, similar to a magnifying glass, and focussed the sun’s heat to one point on the street. The concentrated sun rays led to temperatures up to 110oC, which was hot enough to warp the metal of a Jaguar XJ. The glass panels were subsequently covered by a film in May 2014 to prevent  further damage from the reflected sun.

The building had also been blamed for creating a wind tunnel that has been powerful enough to blow pedestrians over.

It is estimated that the cost of the building was around £500m, but the developers also agreed to pay for any damage as a result of the building, and had to install a temporary screen. The building was also publically condemned by figurehead of design council CABE, Paul Finch, who said he regretted supporting the construction of the building.

Red bus on a London highstreet

London Millennium Bridge

One of the more well-known mistakes in UK construction is the Millennium Bridge, opened in London in 2000.

The bridge was built to celebrate the start of the new millennium, starting construction in 1998 and finally opened in June 2000. Upon opening, users of the bridge noticed how much the bridge swayed and the bridge was closed only 3 days after opening.

The bridge was then closed for a further 2 years, racking up a further cost of £5m to fix the bridge sway, on top of the £18.2m that the bridge had already cost.


A bridge over the River Thames in London

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