Why we should all read the Edinburgh Schools report.

Every built environment organisation should read the independent investigative report into Edinburgh school collapse and closures. Specifically the 40 recommendations(1) made in the report, from procurement to information sharing to training and inspections. This is basic QA gone wrong throughout the project supply chain from client through to those constructing the schools.

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This is not just a technical failure, or isolated issue, once again the root cause lies in cutting costs and lack of communication. Having robust quality management systems in place is essential but will only be effective with a responsible construction mind set and behaviours.

“This is not an area where corners or costs should ever be cut”

As Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, said: “This report issues a stark warning – to Edinburgh, to local authorities and to all those responsible for the construction and maintenance of our schools – that they must take action to ensure that all buildings are well-designed, properly built and maintained to an extremely high standard. “This is not an area where corners or costs should ever be cut”

(1) THE LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS … The 40 individual recommendations are listed under the following nine headings. 1. Procurement 2. Independent Certifier 3. Client’s Relationship with the Design Team 4. Information Sharing 5. Construction 6. Training and Recruitment 7. Building Standards 8. Sharing of Information 9. Recommendations for the City of Edinburgh Council 10 Further Inspections

The report can be read / downloaded here: Inquiry into Edinburgh Schools Feb 2017 Final

The following is a reblog from Construction Manager

A lack of proper scrutiny in construction work has been cited as the main reason for the debacle that forced 17 Edinburgh schools to close last year, according to the BBC.

The long-awaited independent investigative report criticised the construction company involved as well as City of Edinburgh Council and the partnership that managed the building contracts.

An inquiry was set up last year following the closure of the schools due to safety failures. Around 7,600 pupils were affected by the closures.

Leading architect and procurement specialist John Cole headed up the inquiry.

In his report, he said: “The fact that no injuries or fatalities to children resulted from the collapse of the gable wall at Oxgangs School was a matter of timing and luck.

“Approximately nine tonnes of masonry fell on an area where children could easily have been standing or passing through.

“One does not require much imagination to think of what the consequences might have been if it had happened an hour or so later.”

The 250-page report identified fundamental defects which led to the wall collapse:

  • not enough wall ties;
  • the wrong type of ties were used;
  • wall cavities were not uniform.

The report said: “It is the view of the inquiry that the primary cause of the collapse of the wall at Oxgangs school was poor quality construction in the building of the wall, which failed to achieve the required minimum embedment of 50mm for the wall ties, particularly in the outer leaf of the cavity wall. The poor quality relates to all three of the following aspects:

  • the direct laying of the bricks and the positioning of the wall ties;
  • the direct supervision of the laying of the bricks and the positioning of the wall ties;
  • the quality assurance processes used by the subcontractor and main contractor to confirm the quality of the construction of the walls.

“All three issues were ultimately the responsibility of the design and build contractor in charge of the site.”

The report said it was not the result of an isolated case of a rogue bricklayer.

It said the substandard bricklaying was either not inspected or was ignored, that an appropriate level of independent scrutiny was missing, and that having a clerk of works may have made a difference.

In his report Cole also questioned whether the drive for faster, lower-cost construction is to the detriment of quality and safety.

The 17 schools were originally built by Miller Construction which, together with Amey, was part of the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (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.

City of Edinburgh Council said it was drawing up an action plan to ensure confidence in the safety of all its buildings.

 

 

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Are we Building Schools for the Future???

Dangerous and dilapidated, poorly built and wasteful. Too many school buildings are failing our children + teachers wellbeing and educational attainment reports the RIBA in a comprehensive POE research based paper that calls for a Government review.

Since the early 2000’s Building Schools for the Future programme, through to the current EFA and Academy programmes it is concerning to read our schools still do not have civilised environments, foster health, wellbeing and happiness, delight and inspire children and teachers*

The RIBA report focuses on how design impacts on wellbeing but sadly omits the body of research and knowledge on biophilia and importance of connectivity with nature.

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RIBA’s new report into the state of school buildings, Better Spaces for Learning reveals:

  • 1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the wretched condition of the school buildings they have to teach in
  • The Government’s Education Funding Agency’s new school building programme is too rigid and is leading to waste and poor value for tax payers
  • Over 90% of teachers believe well-built and designed schools improve educational outcomes and pupil behaviour
  • Over-engineered schools, with Government-specified equipment that only costly consultants know how to operate, is costing £150 million per year which could have been avoided if schools were designed better

A new report on the state of school buildings in the UK has been published today (Wednesday 11 May) by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Using the largest ever analysis of primary and secondary school buildings in the UK, a nation-wide poll of teachers, and extensive engagement with school buildings experts, RIBA’sBetter Spaces for Learning report makes the case for an urgent review of the Government’s Education Funding Agency’s current school building programme.

The report emphasises the importance of well-designed school buildings on young people’s wellbeing, behaviour engagement and crucially, attainment.

RIBA has identified that good school design can reduce running and maintenance costs, in some cases by more than several times a teacher’s average salary a year; it could have prevented the English school estate from spending upwards of £150m annually on unnecessary operation and maintenance costs.

The new report is further insight into the Government’s own assertion that just 5% of the nearly 60,000 school buildings across the UK are performing as intended and operating efficiently.* The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.

Better Spaces for Learning reveals that the Government’s current programme of building new schools is inefficient – with a lack of flexibility to make the best possible use of resources, and little opportunity for school staff to input into the design of their own new buildings. RIBA believes that the Government programme must be improved to guarantee better outcomes for our public money.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said:

“This country is in the grip of the worst shortage of school places in living memory. Our report highlights the vital importance of school design and how it affects the general health and wellbeing of their users, our children and their teachers. As limited funding is available to deal with the growing problem, every penny spent on schools must deliver maximum value for money. Award winning well-designed, successful schools with happy pupils and productive staff like Burntwood School in London shouldn’t be the exception, they should be the standard.

“How can we expect our children to compete with the world’s best when too many of our school buildings are substandard? Educational improvements resulting from the current programme of school building are not reaching the basic standards that British taxpayers and our economy expects. We need to do better for all of our children and their hardworking teachers. We urge the Government to review its programme of building new schools.”

(*to use Living Building Challenge parlance).

a real school for the future – without eco-bling

Education Guardian reports today on the development of Acharacle School on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Scotland.  The report by Tariq Tahir, should make ‘essential ‘ reading for those involved in school design, construction and in community assets. In addition the school childrens blog ‘they are building outside our class‘ illustrates how construction can be a real educational benefit.  One to RSS and watch develop.

And with no eco-bling, no greenwash, this is sustainable development…

The design, illustrating a sustainable future, for two or three generations is based on the use of mass-timber.  Architect Howard Liddel from Gaia comments … “the modern school does what it says on the tin but what it has on the tin is a skull and crossbones, and these are toxic fumes. Modern buildings have huge amounts of formaldehyde coming out of the floor coverings, seat coverings, the walls run with condensation.”

“What this project is doing is ticking a lot of boxes in a very subtle manner. There’s no covering the building in ‘eco-bling’ – the gimmicks people put on to make buildings green. It’s really quite liberating for an architect.”

He promised that the new building would provide a much healthier working environment for the staff and 50-odd pupils. “We have an immense problem with toxic materials in buildings – we have 55,000 chemicals we use in building and only 3% of them have been tested for their effects on humans.

“The timber is very good at dealing with indoor moisture passively. In other words, you don’t need a ventilation system when you’ve actually got a material that’s dealing with the moisture. Continue reading