26 October, 2018 - Update on WBS Building Issues

The Department of Education and Skills wishes to provide an update on actions being taken following the structural issues identified at three schools constructed by Western Building Systems.

A key priority today has been to advance interim accommodation solutions for Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School and St Luke’s National School, which were closed following structural assessments on 23 October.

It has been confirmed that, through the implementation of structural engineering solutions, the ground floor of both buildings can be reopened for use by Monday, 5 November. This will facilitate about half the classrooms in each school and special needs children will be prioritised. It is envisaged that preparatory work on these solutions will commence on Monday, 29 October, with a contractor to commence on site on Tuesday, 30 October.

Work is ongoing, in consultation with the school principals, to confirm the interim accommodation arrangements for the remainder of the classes. The school principals will keep staff, students and parents fully informed as this is confirmed.  

Arrangements have been put in place by Dublin Dun Laoghaire ETB to ensure that Ardgillan Community College will be able to accommodate all students when it reopens after the mid-term break, using the shared community hall and some facilities in a neighbouring school.

The Department wishes to set out further detail on the strategy which is underpinning its approach to interim accommodation for the schools in Tyrrelstown, and for any other schools which may require interim accommodation following the ongoing structural assessments.

Again, the Department wishes to emphasise that school buildings will only be closed where it is considered necessary, on the basis of the structural assessment, to do so.

Where it is found necessary to close all or part of a school, the following options are being considered and will be implemented, as possible, in this order of preference:

  1. Wherever possible, the Department will seek to ensure that the ground floor of the school building can be used through the implementation of appropriate engineering solutions.

 

  1. The second preference is to use any spare capacity or ancillary facilities, such as PE halls, which may be available in neighbouring schools.

 

  1. The third preference is to use other public buildings, such as further or higher education facilities, halls, clubs, libraries or buildings used for religious worship, as planning permission is not required to use such buildings for education purposes.

 

  1. As a final preference, the use of prefabs will be considered. However, as it will take some time to install prefabs, due to planning and statutory requirements, this is considered a last resort, unless the prefabs are already on site.

In all cases where students are required to decant to alternative sites, transport will be arranged from the current school building and additional supervision will be provided as required. This is to minimise disruption to pupils and their families.

Good progress was made today on the programme of opening up works and structural assessments at other schools constructed by Western Building Systems. These assessments will continue over the weekend and into early next week.

The engineers on site are gathering information which will be referred back to their headquarters for assessment by senior engineers. The Department expects to receive an update in relation to the first group of schools assessed late today or early tomorrow. This will be communicated to school principals in the first instance who will, in turn, keep staff, students and parents fully informed.

Further to the site visits by representatives of Western Building Systems to view the opening up works in the schools in Tyrrelstown and Ardgillan yesterday, correspondence has been received by the Department from Western Building Systems. This has been referred to the Chief State’s Solicitor’s Office (CSSO). The correspondence does not include observations on the detailed structural issues which were viewed during the course of the site visits.

The Department of Education and Skills would also like to take the opportunity to clarify some aspects of the regulatory compliance arrangements which were in place in relation to school building projects constructed by Western Building Systems.

Under the Public Works Design and Build contract, the contractor and the contractor’s design team are responsible for ensuring quality and for presenting certificates which confirm that the buildings are constructed in accordance with the works requirements and building regulations.

Under the contract, the contractor achieves substantial completion of the works and must then request the Employer’s Representative, working on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, to issue a Certificate of Substantial Completion.

In issuing this Certificate of Substantial Completion, the Employer’s Representative relies on the certification provided by the construction professionals working for the contractor and the contractor’s design team. This is clearly set out in the wording of the Certificate of Substantial Completion.

The Certificate of Substantial Completion releases payments under the contract. It is not a certificate of compliance with the Building Control Regulations and should not be confused with such.

In order to provide further clarification on this point, the Department is now publishing the following certificates relating to Ardgillan Community College on its website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/School-Design/western-building-systems-information/

 

  • Confirmation of compliance with the Building Control Regulations, signed by Western Building Systems
  • Certificate of Substantial Completion, signed by KSN Project Management in its capacity as Employer’s Representative for the Department of Education and Skills