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Design flaws linked to collapsed wall at Scottish school, says BBC

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Design issues could have played a part in the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh, a BBC investigation has claimed

The BBC Scotland documentary How Safe is My School? investigated defects in school construction across Scotland after the incident at Oxgangs in April, which resulted in the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh.

Initial reports suggested that build problems at Oxgangs were to blame for the wall’s failure (see AJ 11.04.16).

However the programme has suggested that no wall ties were included in the original architectural drawings for the school, and were only mentioned once in supporting notes. This raises questions as to whether the designs for the schools should also be investigated further.

Speaking to The Architects’ Journal, Glasgow architect Alan Dunlop, who appeared in the programme, said: ‘The specification isn’t as detailed as I think it should have been.’

The BBC team also reported that brick and blockwork subcontractor VB Contracts, which went bust in 2010, completed the inner blockwork before construction started on the outer brick layer.

Dunlop told the programme: ‘In order to do that I would expect a method statement to be provided. It is a design issue – it is not something you do ad hoc and you have to do it properly and specify the right wall ties to do it.’

In addition, Dunlop inspected photographs of the Oxgangs collapse and said that there appeared to be no wall ties or header ties at the top of the wall.

Defects in 30 schools have been discovered in the past five years

A series of Freedom of Information requests by the BBC to all Scottish local authorities discovered construction defects in 30 schools have been discovered in the past five years.

A statement from Galliford Try, which now has contractual responsibility for four of the 17 Edinburgh PFI schools, said: ‘Work required to reopen those four schools temporarily closed has been completed and the schools opened on 24 May and 6 June 2016.

‘Throughout, Galliford Try’s priority has been to ensure the children return to their studies at the earliest opportunity. We worked tirelessly with the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Schools Partnership in order to achieve this.’

The programme also reported that Edinburgh Schools Partnership, the consortium which runs the Private Finance Initiative which built Oxgangs and the other schools, is suing the original contractors.

Oxgangs Primary school was designed by the Holmes Partnership, which became Holmes Miller in 2011.

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