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Edinburgh school closures

Posted by Geoff Wilkinson on April 11, 2016 at 9:40 AM

You may have seen in the news that safety fears have forced the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh, Scotland, leaving 7,000 pupils at home after the Easter break.

Ten primaries, five secondary's and two additional support needs schools have been shut due to concern over the standard of construction carried out under a public private partnership (PPP) contract approximately 10 years ago.

The alarm was first raised in January this year when a wall at one of the schools, Oxgang's Primary, collapsed during high winds. Three other schools were later closed after inspections revealed problems with the way walls had been built.

On Friday 8th April Edinburgh City Council decided to close all 17 schools citing a “completely unacceptable” standard of construction and pointing to an absence of header ties in sections of the building,”

This is not the first time that this issue has been raised and SCOSS report 242 belived to have been issued in 2011 highlighted examples of a very similar nature http://www.structural-safety.org/publications/view-report/?report=3205

For those unaware the Building Control system in Scotland differs from that in England and Wales where Independent Approved Inspectors and Local Authorities oversee Building Regulation Applications.

However in Scotland Regulations introduced in 1992 allowed the self-certification of structure by chartered Civil or Structural Engineers. These regulations have become widely regarded as inadequate to provide an acceptable level of public safety as the absence of a statutory checking requirement made the possibility of human error a serious risk. A further problem arose from a lack of common understanding as to how much of the development was “structure” and therefore covered by the certificate.

Following great pressure to drop the self certification option it was withdrawn in May 2005. However amid concerns that the complete removal of the self-certification option presented a serious risk of delay and disruption to the building warrant process the option of self certification was replaced. As a result an optional self-certification system was adopted to allow certification by experienced, competent and responsible professionals without any further check by local authorities.

The professional Institutions representing Civil and Structural Engineering set up a structural certification scheme to meet the requirements set down by the Scottish Building Standards Agency (SBSA).

Registration under the Scheme permits individual Chartered Civil or Structural Engineers to certify designs as meeting Building Regulations providing they have met certain criteria, have passed an independent assessment of their competence and experience, and agree to audit by SER. Certifiers approved under this Scheme must be employed by firms that have themselves been accepted for registration as Approved Bodies and these will also be subject to audit.

It is unclear yet which system applied to the Edinburgh Schools PPP schemes and whether or not an independent 3rd Party check was made. However, if it turns out that the structure was self-certified pressure will grow for the Scottish system to drop the self certification option once again.






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