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Bring back clerk of works, says Scottish parliament report on school building defects

Oxgangs primary school edinburgh
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Public bodies need to reduce the gap between themselves and building design teams and to employ a clerk of works on construction projects, according to a Scottish parliamentary committee

The Scottish Parliament’s education and skills committee has published its report into school infrastructure, looking at lessons from the Edinburgh schools fiasco.

It backed calls contained in the earlier Cole Report – the independent investigation headed by architect and construction expert John Cole into the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools because of building defects – that councils should take action to become ‘intelligent clients’.

The committee’s report said it had ‘heard evidence that local authorities had entered into a specific structure for contracts which created a gap between themselves as clients and the design team. We find this unacceptable.’

Public bodies undertaking Design and Build or design, build, finance and maintain contracts should consider employing construction professionals to add quality assurance, the committee said.

It added that a clerk of works could ‘provide the regular inspections necessary to ensure that buildings are built correctly, particularly for work that is subsequently closed up as construction progresses’.

Glasgow architecture professor Alan Dunlop said: ‘A clerk of works should have a day-to-day role in the development of major building projects. That’s how it used to be.

‘The clerk of works had significant responsibility and clout, and reported directly to the architect and client under a traditional building contract or was employed by the client in significant design and build projects after novation, when the design team moved over to work for the contractor.’

He said that the role should be undertaken by an experienced builder, rather than an architect.

The committee undertook its short inquiry in the wake of the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh in January 2016 and the subsequent report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools led by Cole, which was published last February.

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