Tests urged on Parliament windows after smash

The Scottish Parliament, with the window that was broken due to high wind. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Scottish Parliament, with the window that was broken due to high wind. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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SCOTTISH Parliament bosses were today under pressure to carry out comprehensive tests on all the windows near the building’s staff entrance after one of them smashed, sending glass crashing down from the fourth storey.

No-one was hurt, but Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said it could have caused a serious accident.

And the entrance was still closed 48 hours after the incident on Wednesday afternoon.

The parliament appeared to play down the accident, saying “basically, one window blew open and banged into the next, causing it to smash”.

But Ms MacDonald said it was a busy part of the parliament complex and there was a need for more to be done to ensure the windows were safe. “They will need to check every single window in that area for everyone’s safety and peace of mind,” she said. “I’m certainly not walking up there without a strong head covering – probably moulded titanium – until they do.”

Concern

She said the fact the entrance remained closed indicated the parliamentary authorities were not completely satisfied.

“It suggests they are concerned that not everything is right,” she said. “Everyone who uses that entrance would want stringent checks carried out and a statement issued to explain the situation.”

Two years ago, a granite slab on an exterior wall of the parliament came loose near the roof of the MSPs’ restaurant and in December 2011 two more panels became “partially detached” as the building was battered by high winds. After an inspection, four further panels were removed as a precaution. They were all on the south wall of Tower 1, which houses committee rooms and clerks’ offices.

While the parliament was being built, those in charge of the project were criticised for failing to carry out traditional wind tunnel tests on the design. Experts warned that high winds between buildings were capable of blowing people off their feet and sucking the cladding off buildings in extreme cases.

Untested

Ms MacDonald said: “The proper tests were never done. Ten years ago, architects who were used to building in Edinburgh and knew the problems with winds in different parts of the city said this was a site where the tunnelling effect with strong winds was an issue.”

Windows in the parliament were redesigned to be bomb-proof after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, adding to the delays in the construction of the building. Blast-proofing work was said to have added £30 million to the overall cost.

A parliament spokesman said maintenance staff were set to take a closer look at the window over the weekend and would decide on the next steps from there.

“A window in the ministerial tower, which wasn’t properly secured, blew open in the high winds and broke a pane of glass in an adjacent window.

“The outer pane was toughened glass designed to break up into small pieces on impact – which is what it did. The inner panel is laminated and remained in place with some surface cracks on it – again what it is designed to do.”

Parliament Woes

Nov 04: Just four weeks after the official opening, 154 windows have to be replaced because of a problem with the sealant.

Aug 05: Twelve specially-crafted oak doors had to be replaced at a cost of £1000 each after they started to buckle.

Mar 06: A roof beam in the debating chamber swings loose – the chamber is out of action for two months.

Feb 08: Stronger lighting installed in the “gloomy” entrance foyer as part of a £115,000 programme of repairs and refurbishments.

Apr 08: A new granite sign saying “Public Entrance” costs £20,000 – workmen are called back because the final “E” is 4mm too high.

June 08: A £250,000 traffic control system is installed at the entrance to the underground car park.

Mar 09: A triangular roundabout and other security measures outside the car park cost £223,000.

July 09: Turnstiles installed at a cost of £300,000 at Queensberry House and Canongate entrances to improve security.

May 2011: After a granite slab comes crashing down, scaffolding has to be erected for a full inspection of the panels.