Last edited 12 Dec 2020

Mistakes we will admit to

Below we've listed a few classic mistakes we will admit to having.... well shall we say 'witnessed'. If you have more, we would love to add them. Email [email protected] or click 'submit comment' at the bottom of the page.

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  • Wrong scale: Sanitary fittings drawn at a different scale to the room layout in a 500 bed hospital.
  • Wrong point: Load calculations being out by a factor of 10 on a reinforced concrete structure. The decimal point was in the wrong place. The result was a serious structural failure.
  • Wrong units: On the Millennium Dome the first shipment of cables were 180 feet long instead of 180 metres long. The team managed to conceal this from the TV documentary team.


  • Wrong permission: Not realising the difference between planning permission and building regulations – resulting in failure to get planning permission.
  • Wrong order: Failure to appoint an acoustic consultant until the design was complete. As a result all of the rooms had to be made bigger. That's easier said than done.
  • Wrong brief: Failure to make the brief match the budget, resulting in a brief for a world class building, but a budget for a shed.
  • Wrong document: Signing the letter of intent, but never getting round to signing the contract.
  • Wrong equipment: Failure to freeze the brief, resulting in the redesign of all operating theatres in a major new hospital when the surgeons changed their minds about the equipment supplier.
  • Wrong packaging. Analysis carried out on the Media Centre for London 2012 revealed that whilst only 469 tonnes of timber was officially delivered to site for use in the construction works, 907 tonnes of timber left the site in skips.
  • Wrong pressure: An enthusiastic Irish concrete gang on the Portsmouth Tricon project in 1962 were amongst the first to use concrete pumps. At the end of the pour the concrete trapped in the 6 inch pipes was cleared by sending through a rubber ball powered by compressed air from a pressure vessel. As the ball pushed the concrete through the pipe, resistance reduced and so the pressure needed to be dropped to ensure the ball gently hit a piece of ply at the end of the pipeline. New to this, the gang had no ply prepared and failed to reduce the pressure. The ball hurtled into the naval dockyard much like Nelson would have experienced on the nearby Victory. All hell was let loose and only the Irish gang saw the funny side, having retired to the infamous Hole in the Wall pub.


  • Wrong building: Mistakenly demolishing part of a listed building, because nobody had told the crane driver.
  • Wrong price: A charitable client did not realise VAT needed to be added to the contractor's price.
  • Wrong hats: Getting audience sight lines wrong. Who knew people wear top hats when they go to Ascot? None of the design guides mention it.
  • Wrong train: Specifying fire stopping for coaches on a tunnel train but not the locomotive.
  • Wrong taps: Infra red taps were installed at the Millennium Dome as part of a research project to assess the effectiveness of water conservation measures. Unfortunately the children that visited discovered if you ran up and down with your hands under the detectors, you could get all the taps to go on at the same time. No water was saved.


  • Wrong specification: Using the wrong weld specification on a steel bridge structure.
  • Wrong place: Pre-formed service holes being in the wrong place in a large modular construction. A lot of drilling had to be done to install the radiators.
  • Wrong bend: A series of curved steel beams were supposed to straighten under the weight of the roof when the roof was constructed. They didn't.


  • Wrong use of time: Marking up a brick to discover it was moved eleven times before it eventually left the site in a skip, never having been used.


To start a discussion about this article, click 'Add a comment' above and add your thoughts to this discussion page.

We got the ball back. It was made of foamed rubber and floated. It was used time and time again for blowing out. There was no damage apart from the dent in the pride of the supervisory management mainly me. However I did get invited to tea with the admiral of the dockyard along with my Uncle Ronnie who was captain of HMS Arathusa who thought the incident was hilarious.

Designing Buildings Anywhere

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