‘White House’ evacuation blamed on sagging floors

Sagging floors are to blame for the evacuation of the £7.3 million SIC headquarters at North Ness in Lerwick, engineers have determined.

Lights were on at the council’s empty North Ness headquarters today and workers can be seen on the ground floor. Photo: Stephen Gordon

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.


Add Your Comment
  • Michael Garriock

    • December 14th, 2016 17:31

    So, whose fault is it. The architect(s), engineers(s), builder(s) or whom?

    It kinda a bit of a biggie not to have someone’s neck on the chopping block for, although they’ve gotten away with that for every previous fiasco, so why not this time too!

    How much is it going to cost to “fix”, and properly?

    Is the SIC still paying rent to SLAP for something they aren’t using and cannot use?

    • john ridland

      • December 14th, 2016 21:08

      Maybe they could buy it at a knock down price…!!! LOL
      Maybe that was the plan all along…oooops….!!!!!!!!!

  • John Irvine

    • December 14th, 2016 18:16

    I heard (through the grapevine) that the structural frame in the building was not up to the standard that should have been, what was used was to light to bear the load.
    If this was the case this is an extremely serious matter but will anyone be held accountable? or will this be another case where the council will have to fork out £millions to correct it?

  • Christopher Johnston

    • December 14th, 2016 18:35

    Four possible causes:
    1. The structural design of the floors above the ground floor is deficient.
    2. The construction of the floors above the ground floor is deficient.
    3. SIC placed heavy loads above the ground floor that exceeded the structural design capacity of the floor. An example would be placing a high density filing system in the middle of a bay not designed for high density filing.
    4. A combination of 1, 2, and 3.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • December 16th, 2016 15:19

    1. The trowes fae the museum just across the road tunnelled under the building, undermining it? They sound like wee mischievous blighters for sure…;
    2. Foot Stamping from the Mareel venue caused tremors weakening the structure;
    3. The Christmas party drink stash was a bit on the heavy side.
    4. A combination of the above.

    • Bill Adams

      • December 17th, 2016 15:33

      Actually, Sandy, it was probably all those 4-drawer filing cabinets bung full of paper.

  • David Spence

    • December 17th, 2016 15:19

    Alternatively Sandy, all that hot air produced by the Council was released, thus causing the structure of the building to weaken…………….or………. the massive weight of all the Council reports, feasibility studies, financial reports, cost analysis, projecting costing, drawings etc etc for justifying the construction of the building being brought into the building for safe keeping weaken the structure. lol

    • Sandy McDonald

      • December 17th, 2016 21:51

      I’m waiting for a daft excuse, such as they hadn’t planned for the mass of scorie droppings on the roof, or the pounding of the waves on the foundations or some such rubbish.

      • David Spence

        • December 18th, 2016 20:42

        When it comes to ‘ droppings ‘ Sandy, I am pretty sure the Council out-compete the scorries. lol

  • ian_tinkler

    • December 18th, 2016 0:45

    Foundations slipping due to ground settlement? I hope not, if so Mareel will do the same. Whoops.


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