School Building Programme : Are our children safe?

4

13 October 2016

Yesterday Budget 2016 announced capital spending on schools at 14% which is actually more than the planned capital spending for housing (13%) for the period 2016- 2021 (see Capital Plan (2016-2021) :

“…capital allocation under this Plan will fund the delivery of a further 19,000 additional primary school places required by 2018 and a further 43,000 additional post- primary school places required by 2022… All new schools and extensions must achieve a top A3 band Building Energy Rating (BER). Schools constructed in line with the Department of Education and Skills guidance will be up to twice as energy efficient as international norms” 

The allocation for housing in the budget is €300m for 1500 Public Private Partnership  (PPP) houses, traditionally a very expensive and slow method of procurement.  In a previous post from July 2012 we looked at the poor track record of PPP delivered ‘Rapid’ schools building programme from 2007 onwards, another building type where Ireland’s current privatised system of building control and inspections has failed.  The Department of Education have yet to release the safety audit mentioned which was completed last year.

Defective schools : Are our children safe?

safety

12 July 2016

Last week Minister for Education and Skills  Richard Bruton was asked about defective school buildings by Michael Ring TD (FG Mayo). Minister Michael Ring asked about supervision of building works, defects and remedies.

In the case of one school, Minister Ring was reported in The Mayo News as saying that: “professional people were working on it and signed off on it, and now we want to know who they were and how this happened? The taxpayer paid for this project and they cannot be asked to pay for it again.” (see Mayo News here)

In reply in the Dail question, Minister Bruton said that:

“…it appears that the issues arising relate to the original building project. As such, any defects are a matter for the school, its Design Team and the main contractor. The school, as the client party to the contract involved, must pursue these entities and or their insurances as necessary to remedy them.” (see Dáil statements here),

This is clear. It’s not the responsibility of the Department of Education. Where defects occur in a school building the Board of Management should pursue the designers and builders through legal action.

Only last year, the Department of Education confirmed that officials audit a percentage of projects but that in the case of schools “these audits do not include extensive or invasive investigation of building fabric and construction” as “fire safety inspections of completed buildings are normally a matter for the local authority.” (see Irish Examiner here)

At that time, however the then Minister Jan O’Sullivan TD said: “The Department is currently arranging fire safety assessments of five other schools constructed in 2008 to determine if there are any issues of concern. Without preempting the outcome of those assessments, I can assure the Deputy that funding will be available to deal with any fire safety issues which might arise.” (see here

Earlier this year, teachers union TUI called for a national audit of fire safety in schools after revelations in the Irish Examiner last October that more than 200 primary students in Dublin were attending a school for six years before it was discovered it was a serious fire hazard. (Irish Examiner report here)

Schools defects and building failures have been in the media both here and in the UK. In Edinburgh two PPP schools suffered partial wall collapses and 17 schools build by the same contractor were immediately evacuated pending audit (see here). In Lusk, Co Dublin serious defects in a ‘rapid’ constructed modular school were detected following on from an Architect’s audit of fire safety commissioned by the school in 2014. Subsequently in 2015, €800,000 was spent by the state on remediating defects. Following public pressure an audit of 6 schools (completed by the Irish contractor) was undertaken in 2015. The Irish case is in marked contrast to the UK example, pupils still in attendance at all schools subject to ongoing audit for over a year, the report has yet to be published.

In the UK buildings were evacuated immediately in the interests of childrens safety and an immediate audit was called, while in Ireland pupils continue to attend schools of questionable build quality years after defects emerge. The recent Mayo case seems to be the first where a decision was made to shut the school.

Over one year later we are still waiting on this state report into the safety of these ‘RAPID’ build schools.

Articles mentioned in this post:

Gaelscoil shut over health and safety concerns – The Mayo News

Schools Building Projects: 5 Jul 2016: Written answers (KildareStreet.com)

Firm that built school with fire safety concerns constructed at least 25 others | Irish Examiner

Fire-fighting | Rush and Lusk School | BRegsForum

Calls for a national audit to ensure school fire safety | Irish Examiner

Faults found at 17 Edinburgh schools

Other posts in “Look-Back” series

Here’s How to Avoid Another Longboat Quay: Dublin Inquirer | Look Back 15

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2) | Look Back 14

Building Surveyor’s Inspection Plan + Form | Look Back 13

Murray letter to Senators: BC(A)R SI.9 (SI.105) | Look Back 12 

Is the scene set for another Priory Hall? | Look Back 11

Simon Carswell: Politicians, Construction industry lobbying and banking | Look Back 10

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 | Look Back 9

Minister Hogan defends BC(A)R SI.9 | Look Back 8

Christmas Past – What did you hope for from Santa in 2013? Look Back 7

Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 | Look Back 6 

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | Look Back 5

SCSI | “Highly unlikely Priory Hall would happen in Britain”- Look Back 4

BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9- Look Back 3 

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.9- Look Back 2

World Bank Rankings, Ireland & SI.9 – Look Back 1

2 thoughts on “School Building Programme : Are our children safe?

  1. Michael O'Neill

    Reply to – School Building Programme – Are our children safe

    http://www.bregsforum.com/2016/10/13/school-building-programme-are-our-children-safe/

    Another sad attempt to protect rogue builders by unnecessarily prolonging investigations and issue nonsense statements to distract the public.

    The prolongation of the investigation is monstrous, but typical of the lengths politicians will go to cover their own collective asses and those members of their favourite donor industries

    As for the nonsense statement:

    “Schools constructed in line with the Department of Education and Skills guidance will be up to twice as energy efficient as international norms”

    Define “international norms”.
    Do we include grass huts in Africa, Bedouin tends in Arabia and Igloos at the North Pole?

    Such utter and stuff nonsense – and VERY far from Carbon Neutral, Carbon Zero, Carbon Plus or any of the other ‘carbonated’ offerings.

    These latter standards were we are meant to be going in the next three to five as I understand it.

    This lower A3 standard I achieved on a 500 sqm house wayyy back in 2008.

    Define “energy efficient”.

    Is this adhering to a lower standard by the department an admission of the lower usage school spaces are put to if we are forgetting apparently about summer schools, adult education, night classes and community uses?

    Or is it an admission that striving for higher standards in the long term gives us an increased cost burden now that cannot be justified in terms of payback?

    If do we go deeper and see that the very measures we use to save energy actually cost us energy so that there is little difference in the long run.

    Especially if we include the replacement costs for specialist equipment, heat exchangers, hi-tech vapour barriers and the like that are needed to achieve higher than A3 efficiencies?

    This pathetic attempt to defer and distract from a threat to our children’s well-being shows just how badly we have lost the plot in this country and how incompetent this and previous government are at addressing problems of national scope.

    They cannot deliver compliant, safe houses, never mind value for money energy-efficient schools.

    What CAN they do? Bluster. Boast. Distract.

    Remember – a politician has two jobs.

    1. Get elected.

    2. Stay elected.

    Everything else is window dressing to them.

    Reply
  2. Paul Lee

    I completely agree with you Michael. The preoccupation with form over substance is breathtaking. The political system and the constantly expanding de facto communist-style central control by government departments means that solutions cannot be found within the system we currently have. A new system is required, but will only come into place when we realise that fixing our current one just ain’t gonna happen.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *