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Edinburgh schools shutdown continues amidst collapse fears

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April 11 2016

Edinburgh schools shutdown continues amidst collapse fears
No less than 17 Edinburgh schools have been affected by an emergency shutdown prompted by fears that substandard construction techniques employed under public private partnership delivered schools could put pupil safety at risk.

7,000 pupils at 10 primaries, five secondary’s, two additional support needs schools and a nursery have been affected by the emergency closures – all of which are only 10 years old.

An inspection of Oxgangs Primary, where a wall collapsed in January during high winds, uncovered ‘serious’ structural defects in its walls, with subsequent checks uncovering similar problems at three other schools.

In April last year a pupil died at Liberton High after a wall collapsed in the school’s sports hall.

Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns said: "Clearly we have every right to expect these schools to have been built to a good standard and in accordance with industry practice. We now know this isn't the case."

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Schools Partnership, operator of the PPP schools, said they would assume ‘full financial responsibility for the defects’, adding: “The standard of construction carried out by the building contractor is completely unacceptable and we are now undertaking full structural surveys on all PPP1 schools to determine whether this issue is more widespread.”

Oxgangs was built by Miller Construction, since taken over by Galliford Try in 2014.

17 Comments

A Local Pleb
#1 Posted by A Local Pleb on 11 Apr 2016 at 13:46 PM
I would suggest any argument directly attributing the failure to the method of procurement as being naive. What about the adequacy of the structural design, was it covered under and an SER bcertifcate. Sub-Contractors building the walls are reliant on being provided with fully designed information, they have no design responsibility. Who verified the walls were built in compliance with approved building warrant drawings?
D to the R
#2 Posted by D to the R on 11 Apr 2016 at 15:46 PM
I would suggest comment no. 1 is naive. This will have been a D+B contract with a contractor screwing every sqm cost out of it. The consultant you refer to will have had nothing more than a novated side role. Design responsibility yes ... voice to be heard no. Thats usually how it works ...
JBB
#3 Posted by JBB on 11 Apr 2016 at 17:25 PM
Just imagine a time when there were people employed by the client to be on site and look after their interests, making sure what was being built was quality....
ron john
#4 Posted by ron john on 12 Apr 2016 at 10:43 AM
Interesting (and slightly misleading) that the article chooses to highlight the pupil that died at Liberton High after the wall collapsing

The Liberton High School project was nothing to do with this batch of schools procurement

In fact the Liberton project would have been procured traditionally and yet I don’t hear anyone saying that it was the procurement route that was at fault for the terrible event that led to the pupils death.

The current Scottish Government continue to procure projects through Private Finance Investment (Inverness College, Edinburgh Sick Kids, Kilmarnock College, Scottish Bloods to name a few)

Are we saying that the Scottish Governments procurement practices are not safe ?

Thoughts ?
JBB
#5 Posted by JBB on 12 Apr 2016 at 12:09 PM
I would say less safe, yes. If the process of designing, constructing and operating/maintaining is all tied into available profits for one umbrella it is only inevitable.

When you walk around a building financed by one of these models you can see clearly the compromise in quality. Poor detailing and finishes irritate but the worry is the shortcuts under the surface that you cant see. Or that anyone not being paid by the contract has seen.

A Local Pleb
#6 Posted by A Local Pleb on 12 Apr 2016 at 12:33 PM
To comment #2 feel free to suggest I am naïve but with 25 years experience working for architects and main-contractors in traditional, D&B, management contract, PFI, PPP, Frameworks & HUB delivering schools, hospitals, offices and retail I think I can speak from experience.
D to the R
#7 Posted by D to the R on 12 Apr 2016 at 13:17 PM
Pleb ... Re-read my comment - It didn't say you were naive it said the comment was. I notice you didn't disagree with the rest of the content ...
Walt Disney
#8 Posted by Walt Disney on 12 Apr 2016 at 13:49 PM
I also fail to see the correlation between the procurement method and the lack of wall ties. There are a myriad of other explanations other than a PPP procurement vehicle. If you think about it, wall ties are some of the cheapest components on the site. Omitting wall ties wasn't going to turn a 10% margin into a 15% margin was it? Was it going to compress the programme? There was nothing to be gainsed by anyone.

Additionally it would also be expected - even in a D&B for the employer to have an agent on site and also for building control to make regular visits to site, not to mention residuall responsiblities of architects and engineers. There is something remiss here, however I would strongly suggest that it is down to poor specification, poor detailing, poor sub contracting or poor site management or a combination of all. The suggestion that wall ties were ommitted to cut cost and increase profit is ludcrous as is the suggestion that D&B will always produce an inferior building.


Every cloud ...
#9 Posted by Every cloud ... on 12 Apr 2016 at 19:19 PM
#8 Walt - Ferr doos. Can't disagree with any of that, but looking on the bright aside, this whole PFI financial legacy is hopefully the real final nail in the political coffin of the Scottish Labour Party, which is how it'll be perceived by the electorate, despite the MSM's best efforts.
Walt Disney
#10 Posted by Walt Disney on 13 Apr 2016 at 10:50 AM
Totally agree abot Labour. You never had this sort of shoddyness going on when Edinburgh was run by the Conservative and Unionist party.
Walt White
#11 Posted by Walt White on 14 Apr 2016 at 09:02 AM
Totally agree with #3 and surely that goes to the main issue, who is inspecting quality in these buildings and who is signing off on it? #8 is correct that cutting back on wall ties isn't going to save much money, but sometimes it is the appearance of making savings, and making them in the short term, that is more important to those in charge than thinking about long term value. Tick box exercise thinking, I've saved a few pounds here and there, what a good job I've done. 10 years later a wall falls down.

I think the whole Labour bad think is short sighted move. NPD and HUB, if you have ever worked on them, is PFI in a yellow and black hoodie. No one will come out with anything but egg on their face if you play that game
John Grant
#12 Posted by John Grant on 15 Apr 2016 at 21:12 PM
The politics behind PFI/PPP is surely not relevant - the fact is that the responsibility for the condition of the buildings up to the handover date remains clearly with the PPP/PFI contacting entity. Thwere must be some pressure on the builder to minimise the extent of defects arising whilst the properties remain in his responsibility. It looks like these defects will make an irresistible case for implementation of comprehensive QA/QC procedures on all construction - or at least all construction which requires Building Warrant. Passing the responsibility on to council inspectors/clerks of works reverts to a previous system which had many deficiencies and is not an appropriate remedy.
JBB
#13 Posted by JBB on 16 Apr 2016 at 20:03 PM
#2. For all its flaws the SER system has undoubtedly improved the quality of design over the past 10-12 years. By far the worst design I've seen is from a local Councils own Building Control 'Engineers' who I can only assume don't require to follow SER as designers given their role as SER verifiers. I'm glad I'm not the Contractor Building that school.... The almost universal role of management Contractors over that period, combined with the loss of the CoW role or full commission Consultants is the biggest problem is the biggest issue.
JBB
#14 Posted by JBB on 16 Apr 2016 at 20:15 PM
#2. For all its flaws the SER system has undoubtedly improved the quality of design over the past 10-12 years. By far the worst design I've seen is from a local Councils own Building Control 'Engineers' who I can only assume don't require to follow SER as designers given their role as SER verifiers. I'm glad I'm not the Contractor Building that school.... The almost universal role of management Contractors over that period, combined with the loss of the CoW role or full commission Consultants is the biggest problem is the biggest issue.
John Grant
#15 Posted by John Grant on 16 Apr 2016 at 20:39 PM
#13 Projects of the size of schools cannot reasonably carry the cost of full time consultant (Engineer and Architect) supervision. Clerks of Works were the means of safeguarding the client's interests in terms of quality. Had that system been in position here the immediate effect would have been to muddy the waters in terms of responsibility. It is preferable that the responsibility for quality of construction (not design of course) be left unambiguously with the contractor. It is then necessary to have a system which by which the contractor monitors and demonstrates compliance with the design and specification as required by the Building Warrant. Many other industries deal with this requirement through QA/QC procedures, leaving the responsibility clearly where it should be - with the contractor. Why not construction?
JBB
#16 Posted by JBB on 17 Apr 2016 at 07:26 AM
#15. I totally agree that ultimately it can only be the contractor that is responsible. I made my point poorly. All I was trying to say was that with the removal of client side supervision of any sort (not the quick walk round before a monthly progress meeting that the consultants probably do if lucky) combined with the actual guy 'building the wall' likely being a contract worker to a sub-contractor to the main contractor it is inevitable we'll have these sorts of problems.
Arthur Brown
#17 Posted by Arthur Brown on 22 Apr 2016 at 11:21 AM
I agree that the responsibility for quality control should sit fair and square with one party and it makes sense that this should be the main contractor. However, I'm totally convinced that some external verification and checks are required to provide the client with an independent view and to confirm that all the other parties, consultants and contractors, are actually delivering what's required. This was traditionally the role of the Clerk of Works, but I fear that with these projects and many others in recent years there's been some short term and miss-guided cost savings taken by avoiding having a full-time Clerk of Works on each site. It's likely that this will have saved some tens of thousands of pounds on each of these projects. However, this will represent only a very small percentage of the total capital cost of each project and an even smaller percentage of the whole life cost of each.
I wonder if those that took the decision to omit the provision of a Clerk of Works still think that it was a good idea?

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