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Action Being Encouraged to Avoid Next Grenfell Tower Fire

Widespread revelations about fire safety shortcomings in buildings across the country have aroused fears about the ‘next Grenfell Tower fire ’.

During a recent evidence sessions before MSPs, many alleged construction failings in Scotland came to light. They include tradesmen and developers cutting corners, ignoring important safety checks, and in general dodging their responsibility when it comes to public projects. The defects are allegedly so widespread that many structures across the country are at risk of collapse.

Professor John Cole, the prominent Irish architect, issued the warnings after providing his report into the Edinburgh schools scandal. After part of a wall at Oxgangs Primary collapsed, 16 primaries and secondaries in the city were closed. Professor Cole warned that five school walls have collapsed in recent years, and councils and other authorities tend to fear negative publicity too much to make an issue of it.

The public now wonders if Scotland is close to another disaster on the scale of the Grenfell Tower fire. Although six different main contractors were used at these schools, the same faults were appearing, which suggests that the building industry is experiencing a form of institutionalised failure.

Bricklayers no longer emerge from apprenticeship schemes with large developers. These days, they are casual workers who migrate from one project to the next and are compensated according to the number of bricks they lay. Consequently, they often failed to insert the fiddling fittings needed to secure wall ties between the cavity walls.

This omission, along with missing joint reinforcements and header ties, turned many walls into freestanding panels that a wind could blow down, according to Professor Cole.

 

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James Dornan, who convened the committee, formerly worked in the building trade. He was shocked by the revelations.

The ‘clerk of works’ who traditionally confirmed that standards were adhered to, has long since been made redundant in favour of ‘project managers’ who are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed on time and under budget.

This change originates party with the Scottish Parliament’s genesis and the increasing costs of Holyrood, which rose from original estimates of £40 million to over £400m. The result has been the degradation of professional skills in favour of ensuring profit. Contractors are not inclined to search for construction errors that would mean expensive rebuilding and delays, according to Cole.

Across Scotland, councils hesitated to provide information to the inquiry into the Edinburgh problems, concerned about alarming parents and students at the affected schools. Instead, they attempted to deal with the situation on their own.

Many buildings have likely been unchecked for potential safety violations, the MSPs were warned, and this is a problem that could have an impact on any private or public building.

The Grenfell tower fire occurred after several warnings went unheeded, including a 2000 Parliamentary report that reveals safety concerns about the cladding. The concern remains that a future tragedy of a similar magnitude could await if important changes are not made sooner rather than later.

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