Sagging floors are to blame for the evacuation of the £7.3 million SIC headquarters at North Ness in Lerwick, engineers have determined.
Councillors discussed the situation for over an hour at a behind-closed-doors meeting this afternoon before Christine Ferguson, director of corporate services, disclosed the fault to the press.
In September the building, commonly referred to as the White House, had to be evacuated at a day’s notice amid concerns about its structural integrity. Last week councillor Theo Smith, who has experience in architecture, described the situation as “embarrassing”.
According to Ms Ferguson “specialist engineers” have been carrying out extensive testing on the building, with a view to finding a “permanent solution” to the problem. That work has been ongoing today.
Shetland Leasing and Property (Slap), which leases the building to the council, is working closely with the SIC to help develop that solution, Ms Ferguson claims.
She said that the engineers had detected “deflections in some parts” of the building, which was causing doors to stick.
In engineering terms “deflection” describes the displacement of a structural element under a load. A fault of this nature has been detected on all but the ground floor of the three-storey building.
The confirmation of the fault has come to light some three months after the building was evacuated, or “decanted” as it was spun at the time.
It also comes a week after Jan Riise, executive manager of corporate services, admitted that the “dislocation” of staff based at North Ness was having “an effect on services”.
Ms Ferguson said today that there were “benefits to having staff localised in one building” and the council was working to minimise the disruption caused by having staff based in offices across the town as a priority. She also said that work was being done to calculate the financial cost of “dislocation”.
I think we could be a little more forthcoming than we have been. JONATHAN WILLS
Earlier in the day, at a meeting of the full council, Jonathan Wills declared an interest in the item on North Ness, despite stand-in chairman Cecil Smith asking that declarations on that item only be disclosed once the public was omitted from the room.
Dr Wills, who as a result of declaring an interest was not able to sit in on the discussions, asked if it would be “possible for the council to say anything after the meeting”.
“I think we could be a little more forthcoming than we have been,” he added.
Dr Wills’ comments come a week after Michael Thomson, a director of Slap, said that “all parties” were aware of the “suspected defect”, and had been for at least a fortnight.
• More in this week’s Shetland Times.