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Schools Building Projects

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 24 September 2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Questions (187)

John Curran


187. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take to address the delays being experienced by his Department to progress its school building projects beyond stage 2B; if the process will be reviewed; if the relevant actions that can be taken to rapidly progress the projects and the timeframe for these projects will be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38786/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Stage 2(b) Detailed Design is arguably the most complex and detailed of all the stages in Architectural Planning. In addition to securing the necessary statutory approvals it also includes the preparation of complex and detailed tender documents. In completing Stage 2(b), Design Teams are now required to upgrade design details to ensure that new school buildings are Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations. In many cases this has involved a second planning application to allow for the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof following receipt of the initial planning permission.

The Deputy will appreciate that all major school building projects under the Department’s Construction Programme are progressed through the various stages of architectural planning in accordance with the Department’s Design Team Procedures, Building Control Regulations and Public Works Contract requirements and that as the funding is exchequer funding the process and costs associated with any major project must be fully accounted for.

Design Teams must therefore be diligent in their preparation of the Stage 2(b) tender documentation in order to satisfy all regulatory bodies and my Department's Design Team Procedures. This results in minimising delays during further stages of the project.

Over the past year, some school building projects have undergone a longer than normal Stage 2b process. This can be due to a complicated or detailed planning application, appeals to An Bord Pleanála, complications around decant arrangements or issues relating to the site.

In addition, since November 2018, a number of competitions to pre-qualify suitable and competent building contractors have been challenged in the High Court leading to the need to completely redraft the procedures and processes involved in pre-qualification. This has impacted over the past few months on projects which were not themselves subject to a direct challenge. However, having implemented the revised procedures, my Department has moved proactively to reduce the risk of Stage 2b projects at present and in the future being further delayed by legal challenge.

My Department also regularly reviews and updates it's suite of guidance and design advice documents which are available to schools and design teams through the Departments web-site. The most recent updates to these documents was in May when revised Guidance on Procurement of Contractors was published and in April when the guidance on Procuring Construction Contractors was revised.