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.