Construction observers on-hand to keep school building projects on track

Issue: Volume 101, Number 9

Posted: 21 July 2022
Reference #: 1HAV6D

A team of skilled construction observers is helping schools across the motu see their building and renovation projects to completion, and to quality standards.

CO Vince Daly inspecting the roof on a new admin block getting built at Newlands College.

CO Vince Daly inspecting the roof on a new admin block getting built at Newlands College.

The role of a construction observer (CO) is to ensure new buildings and renovations meet the Ministry of Education’s extra stringent design specifications, which exceed the New Zealand Building Code and acceptable solutions in areas such as increased roof slopes, additional drainage, wall cavity build-up and the use of more durable and appropriate cladding systems.

Schools connected with a construction observer for their projects report that onsite work is being completed safely, efficiently and to high standards.

Delivering efficiently

Delivery manager Gerhard van der Merwe has supported a number of school-led capital works projects.

“We take the project strain away from the school and by combining projects, we also save the schools money.”

Gerhard says combining a project with capital works means his team can deliver the project efficiently and cost effectively through a single procurement process.

He says the key to success is getting the right people on the Project Control Group (PCG) so school leaders can again concentrate on what they do best – teaching our tamariki.

“A CO on board will ensure the products delivered by suppliers are 100 percent to Ministry design standards, which ultimately means a great structural and weathertight teaching space for years to come.

“I absolutely love having a CO on my PCG teams. It is a great tool to have in the back pocket.”

Gerhard says projects where COs are not involved often run into unnecessary issues.

“We’ve found significant technical detail can be covered up with cladding, which looks good on delivery but has a negative impact on the buildings in years to come.”

 CO Joel Devine inspecting the plastering at Kuranui School.

 CO Joel Devine inspecting the plastering at Kuranui School.

His advice to school leaders taking on any building projects is to bring a CO onboard.

“This will give you qualified eyes looking over the finer details of the project. It’s a win-win situation for the school and us [the Ministry].”

Papamoa Primary’s experience

When a school-led project to modernise the hall at Papamoa Primary School in Bay of Plenty ran into issues, principal Matt Simeon reached out to his Ministry property advisor Richard Standing for help.

Richard says they organised a CO to visit the site the following day to inspect the works and report on their findings.

Matt says, “As a principal facing a challenge that’s beyond my technical capabilities, to have that support, the knowledge of the industry, and ability to de-escalate the contractor as well was really, really helpful.”

The CO attended the site over the next few days to ensure that the works were being corrected and is now visiting the site on a weekly basis until all defects have been remedied.

“The CO has provided the level of support I needed to get the outcome for the school,” says Matt.

His advice to school leaders dealing with complex property issues is to ring their property advisor and ask for a CO.

“The process was so simple. Having someone with a trained eye and industry knowledge is what we as principals need. I don’t know what a flashing should look like; I’ve heard the word and I know they are important, but I don’t know what to look for,” he says.

When deciding on building contractors, Matt recommends choosing one that has school project experience.

“I’ve found that well-known and renowned larger companies, while more expensive, will give you more peace of mind.”

For more information about construction observers and Ministry-led infrastructure projects(external link).

Joel inspecting the window installation at Wairarapa College.

Joel inspecting the window installation at Wairarapa College.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:22 am, 21 July 2022

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