School Building Q&A’s – 13 April 2018

In red below is the list of answers to our questions to Peter Watton of the Estates department in City of Edinburgh Council (CEC).


We wanted to get something to you before the weekend.  Answers below in red.  The final condition survey will be finalised today.  Verbal feedback is that no issues of immediate concern have been found.  We will be independently checking works on Monday morning with final confirmation to the school immediately thereafter.



  • Parents feel strongly that any remedial work undertaken by Amey on the school roof and ceilings should be inspected by Pendrich and Summers Inman respectively to confirm that all issues identified have been addressed. Confidence in Amey/ESP’s own inspections is lacking after recent events, and parents seek independent reassurance, including pictures of before/after repairs. Can you confirm this could be arranged?

Yes – we will independently check the school on Monday morning.


  • The Council has stated that the school will be safe to open after the Easter break. However, the full condition survey has not yet taken place, and parents are concerned it might highlight further issues. It is important that a report of some form be made available to parents before the children return on Tue 17 April. Can you confirm this could be arranged?

Yes – the high risk elements have already been addressed (roof and ceilings).   If the further condition report identifies anything that is of an immediate concern, it will be addressed urgently.  Note at this time we have verbal feedback that no issues have been identified.


  • Is there a contingency plan being put in place in case the condition survey highlights any issues that necessitates the school being closed?

No.  It is highly unlikely that the additional condition report will identify anything that would cause the school to close in its entirety. 


Parents would like more details on what will be inspected in the full condition survey to be undertaken by Hardies/RSP. Would you be able to ask Hardies to supply the highlights of what the inspection covers. Parents aren’t sure if it includes foundations & floors, or indeed the walls again as well. A list would help to provide parents with more understanding. Could you arrange for Hardies to supply this?

Hardies have been asked to survey all the elements set out in the ‘Core Facts’ template below (this is a standard condition methodology that the Scottish Government asks us to complete).  In addition to this, Hardies have been asked to ensure that the survey is a tactile one of internal elements, particularly focussing on fixings.  The condition survey is not, however, a structural survey. 


Core Facts elements:

Major Physical Elements Weighting Condition A-D
Roof 15%
Floor and stair 5%
Ceilings (ground and upper floors) 2%
External walls, windows and doors                20%
Internal walls & doors 2%
Sanitary Services 3%
Mechanical 19%
Electrical 14%
Redecorations 9%
Fixed internal facilities, furniture and fittings 2%
External Areas 9%
TOTAL 100%  



  • If the Hardies/RSP full condition survey does not includea full structural survey, parents would like to make sure that one is done. There is concern that if Amey/ESP did one in 2016, this should now be discounted based on recent evidence of the missing defects not found by the Amey/ESP survey reports versus the defects found in the independent survey reports.

The Council had its own structural surveys carried out in 2016 plus considerable oversight into the works that were done via Amey.  As such, it is not proposed to have a further structural report carried out.


  • As Andrew Kerr has made clear to the media, CEC is very disappointed in the fact that the ceiling report from Amey/ESP did not find the issues subsequently found by Summers Inman. What actions will CEC be taking as a result of this? Parents are concerned that future maintenance may not be of the standard required, and is there a plan to now regularly audit or inspect Amey’s maintenance works?

This is unacceptable to the Council and this particular issue is now a contractual and legal matter.  Notwithstanding the outcome of this issue, the Council will specifically increase its scrutiny of future works at the school.


  • Given the seriousness of the wall collapse 2 years ago and risk to life a full survey of the whole building, fixtures etc should have taken place. Parents would like to know why this did not happen and if it did surely it should have highlighted some of the recent issues?

The issues identified at that time related to masonry panel workmanship and this was the focus of structural inspections and remediation in 2016. In addition, there were visual inspections to identify evidence of movement of distress of other elements. This is captured in the attached letters:

The incident was a serious structural collapse of a main structural element however it did not necessarily indicate a wider problem with other secondary structural elements or non-structural components. Notwithstanding this, the engineers reported any defects that they encountered during the remediation works and before handing over the school a room to room inspection was undertaken to identify any signs of structural distress. This was considered to be a proportionate response


  • A CEC estates officer attended the Oxgangs Primary Parent council meeting in March 2018. The officer assured us the relevant safety checks and visual inspections had been done on the ceiling and on the tile grid, and reassured parents it was safe. Given the Summers Inman report has subsequently demonstrated numerous defects remain which look fairly obvious from a visual inspection, parents have stated that they have lost trust in CEC’s statements on the safety of the building. Can you outline what steps have/can/will be taken to rebuild that trust for future CEC statements?

The officers’ comments were an honest explanation of what was known at that time.  We had received written confirmation from Amey that the ceilings had been inspected and there were no further missing hangers. Following the issue with the roof, the Council decided to check and found this not to be the case.  Any further verbal/written communication will highlight whether it is as ESP/Amey have told us so or whether ESP/Amey told us so and the Council has checked.  Note that while Summers Inman found issues that needed to be remediated as soon as practicable, they did not require the closure of the spaces and the school was still safe to use.  There is a difference between ascribing health and safety issues to all defects, when some of which will be picked up through routine maintenance procedures.


  • In light of the Council’s audit report, parents would like to know if Oxgangs Primary School opened without a completion certificate when it first opened? If so, has the completion certificate been obtained since, when was it signed, and who signed it?

Oxgangs has a Completion Certificate dating from 21/07/06.  Prior to that, the school had a Temporary Occupation Certificate.



  • From the time of the initial wall failure, Oxgangs parents have sought a thorough and independent review of the building design and specifications, and, thereafter, a full construction survey to ensure the build complies with, at least, the design intent.  Has such been undertaken, and if so, to what extent – e.g., primary structure only,  primary and secondary structure, services, fixture and fixings, etc?  Copies of any such reports would be appreciated so that parents can understand exactly what has been inspected to date.

See response to (7) above for indication of levels of inspection carried out after the internal wall failure. This focussed on the area of failure (masonry panels). The Goodson’s and GallifordTry letters provided (7 above) capture the approach taken.


Specific reference is made to the extract below from the Goodson’s letter which outline the rationale behind the approach taken:


“Regarding the structural integrity of the remainder of the main structure of the Phase 2 Schools, these elements were viewed for signs of structural distress or movement ….


Other elements which include concrete floors, steel frame and glazed wall panels as constructed not only involve different sub contracted trades but also have a different methods of construction such as off-site fabrication and/or material testing such as concrete cube crushing.  There is a much greater degree of certainty as to the method of construction of these elements and their compliance with design requirements.  Hence, in our view, it is reasonable to assume that failures in masonry quality do not automatically translate to the actual or potential existence of defects in other elements of the structure of the Phase 2 Schools


Other major elements of the main structure such as floors, foundations and supporting beams, generally show signs of distress by this stage of their design life which would be picked up by a visual inspection.  The buildings have been in full operation for up to 10 years in some cases.  The visual inspections undertaken at the Phase 2 Schools have identified the normal wear and tear that one would expect in Phase 2 Schools of this age but have not identified evidence of any defects or potential failures in any of these other elements of the Phase 2 School structures.”     



  • In lieu of (10) above, and given the overwhelming and continually mounting evidence that build was not properly executed, are CEC continuing on an ad-hoc, failure-to-failure, basis, or have they developed a philosophy of inspection to assure themselves, and parents, that they have a prescient understanding of the risks associated with using the building.  I.e., to what extent are they sure the building is safe, and how did they derive this understanding?  Can any such information be made available to parents so they can assure themselves of their children’s safety?

As with any building, it will required to be monitored and maintained.   ESP share planned maintenance programmes with CEC, annually, which is a contractual requirement.

The Council PPP monitoring team regularly check the on-site documentation, ensuring that the service subcontractor has completed planned maintenance (statutory and non-statutory) across the PPP estate.   Furthermore, the team measure the FM provider against the Service Level Specification. Any performance or availability failures are subsequently logged on the helpdesk for rectification with a predetermined time to rectify any defects, dependent on the risk profile.  School feedback is also provided through formal monthly meetings with CEC monitoring team and Amey.


  • The Pendrich report indicates that mild, rather than stainless, steel fixings were used to secure elements of the roof.  Were MS fixings specified in the design, or were they substituted at build?  If the former, who signed off the design?  If the latter, and most importantly, does CEC have a good understanding of the extent to which inappropriate materials and practices were used in the construction of the building overall, and if so, do they have any sense of the current occupation risks associated with such, or, the likely contribution such substitutions or practices will have on the premature ageing of the building?  Scope of such a review could be based upon establishing design life, as laid out in Section 6. of “Design life of buildings: a scoping study”, Scottish building standards agency, 2007.  Additionally, the build cost must be factored into the PFI costs – if sub-specification materials were substituted at build for cost saving, does CEC know the price difference between the actual build compared with the upset design cost?

Without access to the original design drawings or contract documents it is not possible to speculate on the level of design information or the nature of approved changes. Addressing any defects emerging during the PPP concession period rests with ESP based on their regular inspection regime which is monitored by the Council.

The project schools are inspected 24-36 months prior to expiry date and subsequent dilapidation schedule is proposed and undertaken, complying with handover requirements.

  • Both reports (Summers Inman & Pendrich) present much more detail that parent’s have received from previous ESP sponsored inspections and, at face value, paint an alarming picture of incompetence on behalf of the builders/ installers, and continued negligence on the part of ESP, and their agents, to properly inspect.  The majority of parents are not building professionals and have little feel for what constitutes a significant health and safety construction risk.  Though such information may not be readily communicated, it would be helpful if, at least, parents could be provided with a list of works to be done, prioritised in terms of “risk to health and safety”.

The Summers Inman report indicated that the works should be done as soon as possible.  It would have highlighted any immediate response required for health and safety issues, but there were none.  The Pendrich report highlighted those health and safety issues requiring immediate attention, which were actioned. The point made does however raise an issue. While issues are identified there is an assumption that the clients are building professionals. This is something that will be examined when procuring inspections/reports and a recognition that they will be released to a wider audience, for example, reports provide commentary on the level of risk associated with findings.

  • Outside the remit of false ceiling and roof inspections, but some findings subsequent to the Grenfell fire indicate that use of Aluminium composite panelling adds to the risk of fire spread, and, that some types of fire-door do not achieve the design fire rating.  Can parents be assured that composite Aluminium panelling has not been used around the first floor exterior of the building, and that the fire-doors have been sourced from a reputable supplier, carry appropriate test certification, and are properly rated?

It was confirmed by ESP immediately following Grenfell that aluminium composite cladding had not been used at Oxgangs.  We have had our independent experts thoroughly check the ongoing fire safety of all the PPP buildings following the Cole report to confirm that the schools are safe to occupy.  Where any works are required across the estate these will be undertaken.

  • More generally, to what extent does self-certification under the PFI agreement obviate CEC of its statutory inspection role – some or all aspects of build?  Was there any building sign-off before hand over, and if so, was it just ESP rubber-stamping their own work?  Did this require a change in the law which otherwise places ultimate inspection authority with the local council?  This also begs the question, are CEC seeking to legally sanction against ESP for failing to properly inspect works done wrt building regs?

This issue was thoroughly examined by Professor John Cole in his report.   ESP are required to undertake statutory inspections and the Council has sight of these inspections as required.  None of the inspections or audits have suggested that ESP are not carrying out their statutory inspection regime.  With regard to the building handover the Council did appoint a role to oversee this, but the Cole report identified issues with roles and responsibilities at that stage which did not give the Council the level of comfort it should have had.

Building Standards applies to all buildings regardless of contract type (PPP etc). Building Standards is a statutory function and its current function/role is addressed in the Cole report. Ongoing maintenance unless Warrantable would not involve Building Standards.   


  • Finally…..Once the full condition survey is published, would it be possible to setup.a Q&A meeting at the school such that parents have the opportunity to ask any further questions on recent events. We appreciated having the council officer from Estates attend our recent Parent Council meeting, and would like to encourage similar dialogue.

Yes – in addition the Council Chief Executive has invited ESP and Amey to attend once the meeting has been set up.