City of Edinburgh Council appoint us to help them with their schools crisis

Industry expert Professor John Cole released a 250-page investigation reporting on the building defects which led to the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools in 2016 following the partial wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary school in January 2016. The report blames poor construction quality and a lack of supervision, rather than design issue or the PFI funding model.

Our involvement

Late last year we announced that we were working on several of The City of Edinburgh Council schools. We can now communicate that we had the honour of being appointed (under the current framework with The City of Edinburgh Council) in June 2016 to oversee the remedial work required on these PPP (Public Private Partnership) schools.

One of our highly-experienced Clerk of Works Gordon Smith met with The City of Edinburgh Council to construct a detailed quality plan which includes the full-time inspection and reporting of all remedial work to these 17 schools.

‘I worked full-time scrutinising remedial works on the PPP schools between the months of June to August last year to make sure that the new wall ties were properly measured, cut and checked. It was essential to me and Hickton that work was completed correctly.

Being a local man to Edinburgh with over 20 years’ site inspection experience under my belt, I wanted to make sure that these schools would be repaired to the highest of standards making safe their future and the future of the children for years to come’.
– Hickton Clerk of Works Gordon Smith

What went wrong?

Early last year nine tonnes of masonry fell from a gable wall at Oxgangs Primary School during a storm. As a result and following extensive structural surveys, 10 primaries, five secondary and two additional support needs schools were shut because of concerns over the standard of construction all of which were part of the same earlier PPP contract.

Page 47 of the John Cole report said: ‘A combination of excessive cavity width, related non-verticality, incorrectly constructed wall ties has resulted in a cavity wall construction which in many of the ties had insufficient embedment of the wall ties in the outer leaf. This in our view was the primary contributory factor.’

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Chief Executive Andrew Kerr said ‘The report pulls no punches and makes clear what went wrong, the reasons for it and where responsibility lay. Clearly there are lessons for the Council and I will now be drawing up an action plan to take our recommendations forward to ensure everyone can have confidence in the safety of all of our buildings.’

Lack of adequate independent scrutiny

On page 12 the report states ‘While the presence of Clerks of Works cannot guarantee the absence of defects in building construction, there is no doubt in the view of the Inquiry that the use of experienced and properly resourced high-quality Clerks of Works results in a much greater likelihood of defective work being identified before it is closed in. Secondly, the Inquiry is also of the opinion that the awareness by site operatives of the presence of Clerks of Works on site can impact positively on their approach to the quality of their work.’

‘We appreciate the sensitivity of the situation at Edinburgh and that there could have been devastating consequences. Lessons have been learnt and we are delighted that the Council has since chosen to partner with us to undertake the inspection of the remedial works at all 17 schools’.
– Hickton Managing Director Tony Mobbs

We have been awarded an eight-year framework with The City of Edinburgh Council to provide site inspection services for their 21st Century Homes programme and are working on some of their other housing projects such as the Pennywell Development and Leith Fort.