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Faults found in 17 Edinburgh schools 'self-certified' by Miller

15 April 2016

Faults have been found at Oxgangs Primary School and 16 others. Image Edinburgh Evening News (Andrew O’Brien)

Edinburgh Council has confirmed that building defects have been found in all 17 schools that were closed for safety reasons last week.

Five secondaries, 10 primaries and two additional support needs schools were shut last Friday due to concerns over structural issues.

All of the schools, which are about 10 years old, were built by Miller Construction under the same £360m PPP contract.

Andrews Burns, the city’s council leader, said that all schools would now remain closed until the PPP consortium Edinburgh Schools Partnership could assure the council that they were safe, and warned that some may remain closed until after the summer holidays to allow for essential and substantial repairs.

Burns said in a statement: “Yesterday evening the council received early indications that suggest evidence of faults across all 17 affected schools to a varying extent.

"This is a really important point, under the regulations that were in place at the time Edinburgh Schools Partnership and its agents self-certified to the council, as they were entitled to do so, that the buildings complied with all the relevant building standards."

Andrews Burns, the city’s council leader

“At the moment it is too early to say what the impact will be as full survey results from Edinburgh Schools Partnership have not yet been received. Some faults may be easy to fix and may not present a major problem while others could be longer term,” he added.

Speaking about the situation to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Burns said: “Design and the construction standards were the responsibility of the Edinburgh Schools Partnership, who were the main overarching contractor in effect for delivering the facilities.”

The council was “involved in carrying out reasonable inspections and was involved throughout the construction process” but he said the consortium had self-certified that the schools were up to standard.

“This is a really important point, under the regulations that were in place at the time Edinburgh Schools Partnership and its agents self-certified to the council, as they were entitled to do so, that the buildings complied with all the relevant building standards.”

He added: “During the construction there was ongoing involvement from the council but the self-certification process that was there at the time, quite rightly, quite legally, quite properly. Edinburgh Schools Partnership self-certified to the council that the buildings were compliant with all the relevant building standards.

“So the responsibility lies with the schools partnership.”

The 17 schools were built by Miller Construction, which together with Amey, was part of the ESP consortium contract. In 2001 ESP won the £360m deal to design, build and maintain the 17 schools for 30 years. Miller Construction was acquired by Galliford Try in 2014.

The issues were originally discovered after problems in the construction of a wall at Oxgangs Primary were revealed after the building was damaged in a storm in January, checks on it and three other schools then confirmed problems at St Peter’s Primary.

The schools had been expected to reopen after the Easter break, but officials said fresh issues had surfaced during remedial work at Oxgangs school last Friday – it is understood that these related to the discovery of missing wall ties, including header ties that connect the outer brickwork to the structural frame.

Comments

One can only imagine the panic in boardrooms across the country as this will prove likely to be the tip of an iceberg. Self regulation of the press and banks has been seen not to work so why do we expect self regulation within the construction industry to work? Do we not study history to learn from the mistakes of the past, Norfolk and Norwich hospital 2001 being a case in example.
The needs of the client (to maximise build at minimum cost) is diametrically opposed to the need of the contractor (to maximise profit). Forget 'Partnerships' (whatever the acronym they hide behind), as in this case it's proved again they don't really work - let's get back to designing fully before going out to tender, not on the hoof 'on-site' where contractors use of claims conscious 'value engineering' impacts original design proposals and inexperienced, junior staff are put under enormous pressure to reduce costs. How about reverting to a common sense approach, including the reintroduction of a Clerk of Works paid for by the client to ensure that what's been designed is what's delivered. Also how about making an example of the guilty parties here, or will once again the guilty escape under corporate protection?

Victor, 15 April 2016

A result of systemic lack of technical competence, by either both designers and or builders, (which in this case the builder is both) inadequate supervision, lack of ownership and weak management from the top down.

Edwin Quinn, 15 April 2016

Unfortunately, the onus is being put on the contractor to reduce costs hence this often means supervision. Most projects these days are 'design & build', which sounds fine on the outside but is fraught with risk. We need external supervision similar to a Clerk Of Works as even the most 'competent' specialist sub-contractors have problems with their own systems/work packages. The labour on site is critical, that's where the mistakes are made often due to time constraints or even a lack of understanding. Good quality costs money.

Paul Maher, 18 April 2016

Employers, Employer's Agents and Client's Representatives take note. Inspection by second parties and inspections by the building insurer during construction is the best approach to sustainable development of the built environment.

Richard Wheeler FCIOB, 19 April 2016

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