QUESTIONS are being raised about the quality and design of a new generation of multi-million pound buildings in Hull after one proved vulnerable to leaks and two others left staff at the mercy of the elements.
Contractors Balfour Beatty apologised to parents and staff at the £27.5m Kelvin Hall secondary school this week after a leak caused damage and forced its 1,500 pupils to miss two days of education. It was the second leak at the school since it opened in April as part of the city’s £380m Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
And it has now emerged that there are ongoing design issues at the £10.7m Hull History Centre, which opened in June 2010, and Archbishop Sentamu Academy, a £33m BSF school that opened in September last year.
A tent has been put up in the atrium of the history centre to protect staff after temperatures of up to 109F were recorded, caused by direct sunlight beaming into its glass front and clear plastic roof.
The facility in Worship Street was itself forced to close briefly in March when a burst pipe caused flooding to the ground-floor library.
Hull Council said it installed the £350 tent in spring last year and it was working with the architects to resolve the “solar gain” issue.
It said in a statement: “We are exploring with the architects all the reasons and solutions for solar gain in the arcade which causes the temperature to be significantly higher than the outside temperature on sunny days.”
The problems at the academy have required more drastic action and more work may be needed.
The reception area, which is also housed beneath a sheer glass facade, is being redesigned over half-term next week to provide some shelter from the wind that has been blowing paperwork around when the doors open, which is quite often as they are automatically activated when anyone walks past.
High temperatures are another issue, and the school has responded by installing fans. This issue is also linked to the academy’s “building management system”, which controls and monitors airflow and carbon dioxide levels.
Sam Whitaker, chief executive of the Hull Esteem Consortium, which delivered the school, said: “Archbishop Sentamu Academy has been delivered to the agreed plans set out at the beginning of the BSF project.
“An issue has arisen within the open-plan reception area at the main entrance and as part of the Hull Esteem Consortium’s continued involvement with all builds across the city, contractors Morgan Sindall will be carrying out some remedial works across the half-term week.
“The Hull Esteem Consortium has a commitment to work with the schools post-handover - our involvement does not cease at the point where the students enter the schools.”
Academy principal Andrew Chubb added: “I still think there are issues that need to be resolved and we are working hard with the contractors to ensure that all the outstanding issues are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”
Mike Whale, divisional secretary of the Hull branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Most new buildings face teething problems and it would be a shame if this detracts from the generally positive response of students and teachers - there’s no doubt the overall impact of the new buildings has been really positive.
“The architects should perhaps have thought things through, but it’s easy to be wise after the event.”