STOCKHOLM - A Swedish company with a controlling interest in a large complex of student apartments in Ireland has built balconies that are dangerous and not fit for purpose in a similar student development in a Stockholm suburb.
A subcontractor who is in dispute with developers Prime Living Sweden has revealed that the sheets used to construct the balconies were known to be unsuitable for external use, and that the company went ahead and installed them anyway.
The minutes of a meeting about problems on the site indicate that representatives of Prime Living were aware that the balcony sheets were not intended to be used outdoors, but the installation went ahead regardless.
In June 2016, five Irish students on American J1 visas and one Irish-American died when a balcony collapsed during a birthday celebration in Berkeley, California. An investigation found that dry rot that had set in to the improperly-constructed balcony was most likely the main cause of the fatal incident.
Prime Living Sandyford Ltd., 70 percent of which is controlled by Prime Living Sweden through a subsidiary, has borrowed over €5 million to develop 827 apartments in Sandyford, approximately three kilometers from University College Dublin. The two-acre site was bought for over €10 million in 2017.
A recent visit to the development on Stockholm’s northside revealed that residents in what is still essentially a building site are concerned that balcony rails haven’t been properly fixed to the walls, as well as concerns over mould and damp in the modular buildings.
Since 2009, we have developed a production method based on steel modules with standard quick-linking fasteners for lifting and shipping. We are specialized in utilizing the advantages that prefabrication of homes in the factory provides, and have developed assembly and connections at the construction site that shorten construction times and minimize production errors.
- Text from the Prime Living website, translated from the original Swedish
The student apartments built by Prime Living in Spånga have been beset by difficulties, and many of those who have moved in in the spring have already had to be compensated for the poor standard of their accommodation in what is still essentially a building site.
Abdalla "Abbe" El Barawany
Sub-contractor Abdalla El Barawany, who revealed the substandard balconies and whose company Mälarviken Tak och Bygg is in dispute with the developers, has also alleged that Prime Living is either involved in or aware of a plot to intimidate him.
In the spring of 2018, representatives of another sub-contractor visited El Barawany to demand that he sign a document saying he was walking away from the project of his own volition. He refused, but Prime Living later produced what they said was the document he signed - however, police have said that the signature is most likely false and copied from a previous annual report filed by El Barawany's company and signed on his behalf by his accountant.
Shots were subsequently fired at El Barawany’s apartment and a hand grenade was found in the garden of his parents’ house. El Barawany has reported all of these incidents to the police in Stockholm, who are investigating. Prime Living has denied any involvement in the incidents under investigation, but the company has as yet been unable to explain where they obtained the document they say was signed by El Barawany.
The student accommodation in Spånga, pictured during a recent power outage.
The Sandyford development of student accommodation in Ireland was intended to be the first step in a major expansion for Prime Living.
“The development of the student apartments in Sandyford is the first international project for Prime Living and with this financing we begin the serious process of building which is estimated to be done by the autumn term of 2019,” Prime Living CEO Jan Servera said when the details of the financing for the Irish project were announced.
Severa stepped down as CEO at the end of August, and shares in the company traded on the Nasdaq First North exchange in Stockholm have fallen from 83.20 SEK (approximately €7.96) in January of this year to 13.95 SEK (€1.33) at the time of writing.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Swedish construction industry investor said that the market had lost confidence in the ability of the company to continue to finance its operations and that it could be facing collapse.
When contacted about the balconies, Magnus Dahlberg, managing director for Prime Living Industries AB, said that there had never been a problem with the balconies.
"Our balcony sheets have been approved for outdoor use since the beginning but as we were using a new supplier, we firstly wanted to check all documentation and allow our independent inspectors to assure the quality of balconies before they were used - as it should be at a construction site," he said in an e-mail.
This statement contradicts the minutes of a site meeting held on August 7 last year which states that the balconies were not approved for exterior use and that suppliers in China were to be contacted to find a solution.
The meeting, held at the site of the student development, was chaired by Magnus Dahlberg.