This is a guest article written by a Civil Engineer who is known to me but who must remain anonymous for employment reasons.
Above is a picture of one of the walls of a building in Balloch. Just one picture of one wall out of many other similar walls, one would think they were looking at an old, dilapidated building covered up with plywood hoardings.
But no. This is a brand-new dual campus primary school and early learning centre opened a mere three years ago. But look at it now. Wall cladding panels shearing in half all around the building with many of the upper panels showing evidence of detachment from the wall.
The state of this new school is an absolute disgrace. Is it safe? Is it wind and watertight? Will it last the expected design life.? Well, based on the evidence I think the answer to these three questions is in the negative. And the Council, what are they doing about it? That’s another good question. Absolutely nothing it seems, save for screwing plywood boards to cover-up broken and failed wall panels.
Indeed, there is even a picture of a large upper cladding panels where someone has tried to secure them with a couple of small wood screws. You could not make this up. It is outrageous.
But the appalling condition of this school is just the latest example of the utterly unacceptable build quality of new infrastructure being secured by the Scottish Government and their local authorities.
The issue of defective wall cladding systems in particular has been a feature of the build environment these last ten years. Everyone knows of the Grenfell disaster. But many of the last swathe of school building over the last decade here in Scotland was plagued with issues relating to the safety of the walls in what was known as the “wall-ties“ problem. After that you would have thought we would have learned something. But no, the new Queen Elizabeth hospital, among all its other problems of heating, ventilation, water supply and much more, also has cladding problems. Some of the panels detached and fell off.
And the Balloch school, well it just continues this utterly poor build situation. But there are other problems too like ponding in the car parks when it rains. Moreover, in relation to another dual campus primary school built by the same authority, at the same time, and as part of a connected project, it too had major problems after it opened with flooding and sewage backing up internally and discharging within the school. Requiring a major remediation involving taking up floors, slabs, playgrounds, and footways to install new drainage, the poor build quality was again apparent.
But its not just schools and hospitals that are plagued with poor quality building. It is happening too throughout the engineering infrastructure environment. Most, if not all, of our new road infrastructure construction over the last decade or so has had big quality issues.
Even the new “Waste to Energy “plant at Polmadie was plagued by delay due to engineering quality issues. And in our power generation sector too there are problems. The Glendoe Hydro Scheme tunnel collapse months after it had opened was another example of poor construction quality and or design.
And so, what is it that gives rise to this appalling litany of failure.? Something must be causing it. Poor quality building comes because of a reason. We all know of PFI or the later trumpeted NPD model of procurement. Introduced initially by Thatcher and then avidly adopted by Blair and Brown this at that time, as a new form of procurement, had two impacts. One was to mask public borrowing by classing PFI procurement as a sort of lease arrangement as opposed to a borrowing arrangement. Nonsense of course since long term leasing is essentially the same as borrowing.
The other impact was to turn over the design, build and supervision onto the contractor and or service providers who Thatcher thought were better able to manage delivery of public assets. And so freed to the largest extent from external checking the corporates undertook their own designs, self-checked and self-certified the quality, whilst all the while pushing the design envelope down to the lowest limits possible. And the results, well that is what we have been seeing. But even now, with PFI being discredited, and indeed ditched by Highway England, but not in Scotland, the impact of the PFI model has not gone away. In the non PFI delivery the model of design and construct has now become the preferred procurement model where hapless councils and or Scottish Government departments exert no real ability to check and or validate what they are getting for the hard-earned taxpayers pound that is being paid out.
It’s an utter disgrace. As someone once said, building “tomorrow’s slums today”. And it is something the Scottish Government need to get a grip on.
Poor quality construction is every where you look, if you look. And too many of us do not look. And its fire regulation too. With the recent high-profile deaths in a number of high-profile incidents here in Scotland, that’s another issue standards issue again. And the Balloch Dual Campus Primary School and Early Learning centre? Well, it’s just part of the continuing national trend of slum building that the Scottish Government needs to address. And high time that the councils got SG support to pursue the dodgy builders and designers.
The quality of build in so many new schools and hospitals is a very serious issue. When PFI was introduced it was supposed to offer value for money. The line was the public purse paid out for a set period then were effectively gifted an asset with a much longer life. Experience all these years later demonstrates that the public overpay for property of dubious and failing quality that requires constant repair due to the poor quality of the building materials used. It is proved it is another giant rip off of the taxpayer
I am, as always
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