Edinburgh councillors say soaring construction costs must not compromise new Currie High School building

Rising costs for the new Currie High School must not mean compromising on the building's carbon-cutting design or abandoning its planned swimming pool, councillors have agreed.

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Inflation, supply chain issues and labour shortages have sent prices soaring in the construction industry and fears have also been voiced about a possible delay in the school’s 2024 completion date.

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Pentland Hills SNP councillor Neil Gardiner won cross-party support for a motion at full council, asking for an update on the project to the education committee and insisting there should be no reduction in the standard of the building.

When detailed plans for the new school were unveiled in February 2021 it was billed as the most energy-efficient high school in Scotland, thanks to the “Passivhaus” environmental standard it would meet, minimising its carbon footprint and dramatically reducing energy use.

Councillor Gardiner said: “I was pleased my motion was approved at council. It sought to address community concerns about the scope of the new school. Unfortunately there’s currently labour and materials shortages across the UK, related to Brexit and the pandemic, causing construction price inflation leaping to 11 per cent.

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“My motion asked for an update on the new school addressing key principles – that it should be built with no reduction to state-of-the-art educational and community facilities, including swimming pool; that the school is built to achieve Passivhaus standard, which is internationally recognised and certified, reducing ongoing energy running costs – very important for all of us right now – and also contributes to Edinburgh’s carbon reduction targets; and that there is no impact on the existing quality of education, facilities and development of teaching materials for those who currently attend the existing school.”

He said that since the new school would operate as a community cornerstone for coming generations it was important that quality was not compromised.

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The new Currie High School is due to be completed in 2024.

“Retrofit costs are significantly higher than building right first time. The community has been widely consulted, teaching staff worked with designers and specialists are onboard, ensuring environmental aspects are considered from first principles.

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"The Scottish Government recognised the importance of this project and have provided funding support. With current inflation it’s important that there’s not undue delays as the contract is negotiated.

“I hope we can all support the timely delivery of this school to the highest educational, community and environmental standards as an endorsement of our young people, the community and to address our city’s carbon emissions.”

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Education convener Joan Griffiths said she recognised the community might be concerned about possible delays. “But I want to reassure them that we are still working towards a completion date of 2024 for the new Currie High School. This is a difficult time for the construction sector globally due to the impact of the pandemic however a confirmed date for the school will be agreed as part of the final contract negotiations with the preferred contractor next month.

“The new Currie High School is a really exciting project for the Council as it will be the first Passivhaus secondary school in Scotland and is part of our £500 million planned investment over the next decade to create a first-class learning estate and ensure all our children have the best possible learning environment in which to flourish.”

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