Stuffy PPP schools fail the green test

28th May 2004 at 01:00
The first generation of public private partnership (PPP) schools has been "an almost complete failure" in terms of environmentally friendly buildings that people are happy to work in.

Howard Liddell, one of the country's leading proponents of sustainable development and a visiting professor at Oslo University, has again condemned the initial burst of building programmes following publication this week of a joint Educational Institute of Scotland and Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland report on new and refurbished schools.

Mr Liddell, an adviser to ministers and local authorities on sustainable public buildings, claimed last November that the Romans knew more about how to retain heat than PPP contractors.

After reading the EISRIAS report, Mr Liddell said it was difficult to imagine a less green design and build programme and feared that builders would not learn the lessons. There was still a resistance to do anything different in a conservative industry.

He told The TES Scotland: "If the procurers of the first generation of these PFIPPP schools had deliberately set out to avoid all issues of sustainability, then I could understand the outcome of this survey.

However, set against the stated and published objectives of the programme to deliver the highest design and environmental standards and to consult fully with all stakeholders, it indicates an almost complete failure in every one of the key areas of concern in delivering sustainable buildings - namely, social, environmental and financial.

"What an indictment."

Mr Liddell added: "Given the dissatisfaction rate with the heating, ventilation and lighting systems, then I can only stand by my previously published comments about the Romans."

The EIS survey of members in 60 schools finds that 72 per cent of teachers feel positive about their new buildings' impact on learning and teaching but believe much more could have been done and list a catalogue of complaints.

They were mostly not consulted on design and aspects such as heating, lighting, corridor space and classroom size, leaving them disappointed and frustrated with their new facilities. Only one secondary, Balfron High in Stirling Council, was satisfied with the consultation process.

Sebastian Tombs, RIAS chief executive, said it was significant that none of the PFIPPP schools had been nominated for any architectural awards, a measure of peer assessment. "They have not shone in the architectural firmament," Mr Tombs said.

He added: "As a nation we invest too little in our buildings and the specification of materials leads to quite often poor quality and we suffer in the medium to long term. Cost is a factor but I think the lack of stakeholder involvement and the mismatch between aspiration and delivery are the reasons."

Despite significant public investment, teachers had serious concerns about quality. "The best way to get good buildings is to involve people who are going to use them," Mr Tombs said. "Put that group together with the design team and you end up with something people have ownership of and have some pride in."

He hoped that in five years' time there might be more enthusiasm for green buildings if the PPP consortia absorbed the lesson of the EISRIAS recommendations.

Letter from Norway 2 EIS report 3

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