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Faults found at all 17 Edinburgh PFI schools

Edinburgh City Council has confirmed that structural defects have been found at every one of the 17 schools built through the 'PPP1' project by Amey and Miller Construction. All of the schools remain closed while full surveys are carried out to investigate the extent of the defects and whether some of the schools can be reopened while repairs are carried out.

It has also emerged that under the terms of the PPP1 contract, Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), a consortium of Miller Construction, Amey and the Bank of Scotland, self-certified the buildings so is expected to be fully liable for the cost of the repairs.

Miller is now owned by Galliford Try which is working with Amey and the council to establish the full extent of the repair work needed. Initially, insufficient wall head ties were found at two Edinburgh schools after one, Oxgangs primary School, suffered collapsed walls in January storms. Both of these schools were built by Miller only, but the surveys now also implicate an AmeyMiller joint venture that built the first phase of the 17 school build programme, and the quality control and certification procedure that ESP had in place.

Miller, which was in charge of phase two, was bought by Galliford Try in 2014. It now has responsibility for the schools. In a statement issued two days ago, it said: “In March this year we were notified that Oxgangs Primary School, built by Miller Construction more than 10 years ago, lost part of one external wall which blew off in Storm Gertrude. 

“Oxgangs was built as part of Edinburgh's PPP schools programme between 2002 and 2005. The programme, which comprised 17 schools in two phases, was managed by an SPV, Edinburgh Schools Partnership. ESP subcontracted the construction of the schools to a number of contractors including Miller Construction. 

“Through its acquisition of Miller Construction, Galliford Try has contractual responsibility for four of the seventeen schools. Remedial work required to remedy defects in those four schools is nearing completion and the costs are not material to the Group.”

The Edinburgh Schools Partnership, responsible for the 17 city establishments, has condemned building work carried out by Miller Construction as “completely unacceptable”.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Schools Partnership said: “While carrying out remedial works on Friday afternoon (8 April), a new issue came to light at two PPP1 schools – Oxgangs and St Peter’s – relating to an absence of header ties in sections of the building. The standard of construction carried out by the building contractor is completely unacceptable and we are now undertaking full structural surveys on all PPP1 schools to determine whether this issue is more widespread.”

A spokesperson for Amey said: “We are deploying our engineering resources and technical teams to work closely with Edinburgh Schools Partnership to identify and help with additional repairs requested by partnership to allow the schools to be safely reopened.

“We have completed the first phase of initial remedial works in three schools over the Easter break, and we will continue to support the council with the on-going investigation and additional works requested across the Edinburgh schools estate to ensure they are safe for use and can be reopened as quickly as possible.”

Speaking to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, Simon Pitchers, director of Craddy’s Structural Engineers, said: “These buildings are steel-framed buildings with fixed cladding and the photos we have seen suggest that the outer leaf of the building has peeled away under wind suction loading leaving the internal skin still in position so it would appear that there is a problem with the way that the outer skin is connected to the inner skin or the frame.

“You can have a building that’s standing in position for ten years and it requires the wind to blow in the right direction at the right speed, but you can then get suction forces particularly around the edges of roofs and walls that are really quite high and that’s what structural engineers have to design against to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.”

Gordon Masterton from the Institution of Structural Engineers said: "Those who are contracted to design and build the buildings have to satisfy the building control procedures and they ought to have professional engineers to validate the structural stability and safety of the buildings." He also said that under PPP schemes, there was "an additional financial incentive to build properly because the liability still lies with the organisation that built the buildings in the first place."

Leicester City Council, which has schools built by Miller, said it has been told by Galliford Try that they are safe. A Council spokesman said: “We have received assurance from Galliford Try that schools built under the Leicester Miller Education Company are not affected by the faults reported in Edinburgh.

“The schools built under Miller in Leicester were built to a different design and used different contractors and supply chains to those involved in the construction of the Edinburgh schools.

“The city council also appointed its own clerk of works to oversee all aspects of construction and building inspection.

 

“We will keep the matter under review but do not foresee the need to close any schools.”

If you would like to contact Jon Masters about this, or any other story, please email jmasters@infrastructure-intelligence.com.