Investigations into the blaze should examine the Glasgow School of Art’s own oversight role as well as Kier’s management of the site, says a fire safety expert. Colin Marrs reports
The Glasgow School of Art has serious questions to answer in the wake of last month’s fire, which destroyed its Mackintosh building, say industry experts.
So far, the GSA has remained tight-lipped on the circumstances surrounding the blaze, saying only that the entire site was under the day-to-day management of Kier Construction Scotland, the contractor working on repairs following an earlier fire in 2014.
But independent fire safety consultant Stephen Mackenzie told the AJ that investigations into the latest blaze must examine the oversight role played by the school, as well as Kier’s management of the site.
Mackenzie said: ‘There has been ample opportunity to put a temporary or phased permanent sprinkler system into the construction site. As a very bare minimum, they could have at least protected the parts of the building which were not damaged in 2014. Given that they were stung by a fire before, that would be first on my list as a client.’
It is understood that a sprinkler system arrived at the site the day before the latest fire, and had not been installed.
Mackenzie also pointed to the HSE’s 2015 Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, which ‘makes the client accountable for the impact their decisions and approach have on health, safety and welfare on the project’.
There is an enormous gulf between the protestations of care and the fact the building burnt so severely
The regulations place a number of duties on clients, including the preparation of a ‘client brief’, outlining how the project will be managed, including health and safety risks.
The client is also responsible for maintaining and reviewing the management arrangements, with the regulations suggesting the establishment of key milestones to assess the progress of the project ‘and determine whether health and safety standards are being met’.
Mackenzie said: ‘After the fire in 2014, I would have expected the school to have taken a belt and braces approach to fire safety. Once the project is on site, I would expect a client representative to monitor the site and deal with queries from contractors and possibly investigate any incidents reported to them.’ He added that the cause of the fire may never be established. ‘If the fire started in a roof, which then collapsed, then they are never going to find the source,’ he said.
Alan Dunlop, principal of Alan Dunlop Architects, said: ‘The board of governors and trustees had a responsibility – they were custodians of this building and held it in trust for everybody worldwide and in Scotland. They cannot distance themselves from this fire. Kier might have been the contractor but the GSA had a duty of care.’
Mac fire june 2018 peter drummond web
Source: Peter Drummond
Kier – whose contract with the school has now ended by mutual agreement – has insisted that it had implemented its fire safety strategy for the construction phase of the Mackintosh restoration, a project designed by Page\Park Architects.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kier said: ‘These [combined measures] included a smoke and heat detection system and regular evacuation tests as well as 24-hour, seven-days-a-week security and fire warden patrols by a team of three guards, originally appointed by the client after the 2014 fire and subsequently by Kier.’
But Scottish architect Malcolm Fraser said: ‘Given Kier has reported on such a thorough fire strategy it is incredible that the fire broke out and took hold as quickly as it did. There is an enormous gulf between the protestations of care and stewardship and the fact the building burnt so severely.’
Fraser called on the school to confirm what insurance it had in place, ‘so we can focus on how to save what remains’.
A spokesperson for the GSA would not respond to questions, citing the ongoing investigations by Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Health and Safety Executive.