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Report slams Kier over defect-riddled leisure centre

2 May 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Selection of defects identified in the report

A leisure centre designed and built by Kier contained so many defects that questions must be asked of the construction industry’s “professionalism and competence”, according to a report commissioned by the client.

Professor John Cole, a consultant with 35 years’ experience working with public clients, was appointed by Dumfries and Galloway Council to lead an independent inquiry into the construction of the DG One Complex in Dumfries.

The building was completed by Kier Northern in 2008, seven months late and £3m over its original £9.5m budget.

The original brief was for a high quality, energy efficient building with a life span of at least 40 years.

However, in 2011, the Council appointed legal advisers and technical experts to investigate a series of defects across the building and subsequently took legal action.

Six years after it opened, the leisure centre closed completely for remedial works and the total cost of the building's construction, the cost to the Council of its closure, and its subsequent reinstatement is now estimated at £42.5m.

While Kier paid out £9.5m in a legal settlement, the net cost of DG One to the Council is still almost twice the original cost of the development, at £33m.

In his report, Cole said that the project invited parallels with the inquiry into the construction of Edinburgh schools, which he also chaired, published in February last year.

He said that Kier and its supply chain were "unquestionably" responsible for the principle failings at the building and that the Council's reliance on a "large, experienced national contractor" to design and build the complex to the required standard was "seriously misplaced".

He said the existence of so many defects pointed to a lack of skills in the sector and added that "searching questions" had to be asked "as to the professionalism, practices, training and levels of competence of senior managers, site managers, supervisory staff and individual tradesmen" employed at all levels within the construction industry.

Cole also questioned whether public sector organisations "of a certain scale" had the ability to act as "intelligent and informed customers" for the procurement of complex buildings such as DG One.

He said inspections by Building Standards officers were limited and that clients should therefore arrange for the provision of "adequate independent professional scrutiny" of the work of contractors.

And he highlighted concerns about the "extensive failures" in regard to the "omissions and inadequate installation" of fire stopping throughout the DG One building.

He said: "This whole design approach, on which the safety of the public can rely, is rendered ineffective if fire-stopping to penetrations of compartment walls or floors is incomplete and if inspection processes by builders, clients and statutory authorities are regularly failing to identify deficiencies in its installation.

"More robust procedures in relation to the proper inspection and certification of this work are required".

Council leader Elaine Murray, said: "We fully acknowledge all the inquiry's findings and thank Professor Cole and his inquiry team. The findings of his Inquiry give a damning verdict in the quality of construction of DG One at the hands of Keir Northern.

"Professor Cole's Inquiry contains a number of lessons and issues for the Council to reflect upon. There are also matters for the attention of Scottish and UK Governments.  Dumfries and Galloway Council will be acting upon these immediately but legislative changes must also come in response to this Inquiry.

"I have previously referred DG One Leisure Complex to both the Health and Safety Executive and to Police Scotland. Police Scotland have previously indicated that if criminal activity is evident in the report they would be willing to take it further. Based on this, I will now refer the inquiry report to Police Scotland."

A Kier spokesperson said “Kier notes the release of the report and will assess the findings of the independent inquiry as part of a continuous review of the delivery of its projects.”

Comments

It is alarming that the construction sector seems to keep making the same mistakes, from the clients' not challenging their consultants and advisors, to contractors not acquiring the requisite skills through to the 1st and 2nd tier supply chain.

There is also a disconnect between the procurement method and the contracts adopted to ensure that the right contractor is appointed to deliver to the required standards.

With the advent of more and more Design & Build contracts, clients need to be very clear on the outcomes they want and place more vigour in the early stages to ensure the design and product is right. It's the clients product, so they should be instrumental through the whole process and appoint their own quality inspector/Clerk of Works to monitor any discrepancies as the work proceeds. This is the opportunity to correct issues before they become problems.

Preston Neunie, 3 May 2018

As Preston points out, clients need to be more proactive in ensuring quality and fitness for purpose. Contractors are not going to improve on their own.

Buildings don't get to this stage in one brief moment, there will have been months of making-do and accepting work as 'good-enough' for now with a view to correcting at some later date. Then it just snowballs on from there...

Darren, 6 May 2018

The Construction industry has already chased away 500,000 British builders who have emigrated because the bosses wanted cheaper labour, well you do get what you deserve. when will the construction industry ever learn, if you dont employ people who know what they are doing, you will never get a quality product. Management is too often just concerned with health and safety and ignores what is being produced, better procurement wont help either as no subcontractor will pay for its employees to be properly trained.

derek higgs, 9 May 2018

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