Poor Workmanship Causes School Wall Failure


The Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools was published this month.  You may remember the horrific incident when a wall at Oxgangs School collapsed due to poor workmanship in January 2016.

You may also have seen news reports regarding Bovis setting aside millions of pounds of compensation for buyers who have problems with their properties. There is even a Facebook group called Bovis Homes Victims Group which at present has almost 1500 members.

More social media pages have sprung up regarding problems with new properties all over the country, there is even one locally. Why is it that new buildings are having so many problems nowadays?

When the wall at Oxgangs School collapsed, an investigation was carried out which saw 17 schools in the Edinburgh area suffering the same defects as found at Oxgangs.  These defects included walls not being stabilised properly and missing fire stopping works.

Approximately 9 tons of masonry fell at Oxgangs School that morning and these faults are present at 17 other schools in the Edinburgh area alone.  What is happening that these buildings were passed as suitable to be opened?

The inquiry found that “This  Edinburgh  Schools  problem  has  a  greater  significance  than  it  otherwise  might  have  had,  due  to  the  fact  that  the  same  set  of  fundamental  defects, impacting on the structural integrity of  the external walls of the schools, were found  across  17  schools  built  by  a  range  of  different  main  contractors, bricklaying subcontractors, and bricklaying squads. This was not the result of the isolated incompetence of a rogue sub-contractor or bricklaying squad.

Similar defects have been identified across other school buildings in Scotland.  Some of these, predating the collapse in Edinburgh, also resulted in the collapse of brickwork panels.  Again, fortuitously, these did not cause injury to school children.”

Not only is it the bricklaying quality that is coming into question in recent years, electrical installation standards have also been problematic with a new regulation being implemented nationwide – “The third amendment to BS 7671:2011 (IET Wiring Regulations Seventeenth Edition), which was published in January and comes into effect on 1 July, will include a new regulation requiring consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies in domestic premises to have a non-combustible enclosure.

Regulation 421.1.201 was introduced because of reports from fire investigators of a recent trend of increasing numbers of fires involving consumer units having a moulded thermoplastic enclosure.

The cause of the fires investigated was almost invariably found to be resistance heating as a result of poor electrical connections due to poor workmanship or lack of maintenance.”

This above quoted inquiry only considered the schools built under a PPP contract.  What about other buildings, hospitals, office blocks, care homes and residential homes?  If the construction industry is not meeting standards building schools, where else is it not meeting standards?

The 17 new or refurbished/extended schools in Edinburgh were completed between 2002 and 2005, with Oxgangs being one of those classed as completed in 2005 with the Building Standards Certificate of Completion being issued on 21/7/06.  Less than 10 years later a section of the building had collapsed and other sections were found to be substandard due to poor workmanship.

Isn’t it time we recognised those tradesmen who have served their time and are certified as capable?  Why are large construction firms allowed to have so few employees who actually build the properties instead using sub-contractors frequently unknown to them?  It’s time for our tradesmen to be respected and paid their worth.  What price a few pence on the shareholder’s dividends compared to 9 tons of masonry falling on schoolchildren?


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