Schools need special rebuilding

SAFER EDUCTION: The mayor has approved a plan put forward by the education bureau to appoint consultants to oversee minor construction and building maintenance for the city's schools, while proposing the use of professional construction management to supervise major school construction projects

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jan 12, 2000 - Page 2

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) asked the city's Bureau of Education yesterday to appoint professionals as construction consultants for the city's public schools, while in addition urging it to study the feasibility of hiring professional construction management (PCM) firms to ensure quality control during the construction of new schools.

Ma gave the instruction after the bureau briefed him on methods of ensuring the safety of school buildings in the wake of the Sept. 21 earthquake.

He said the bureau should invite construction professionals -- such as architects and civil engineers -- to work as consultants for the city's 232 public schools to help them make professional judgments related to construction projects.

"These professionals can work as `family doctors' to offer their opinions to schools," the mayor said.

During the briefing, bureau staff said five buildings in Taipei have been identified as "dangerous" schools sites, while another 60 "require caution" after the massive quake. All 65 buildings require repairs to ensure their structural safety.

The briefing also revealed that another 37 school buildings did not have valid paperwork such as construction licenses and proper building permits.

Hung Che-yi (洪哲義), chief of the bureau's construction section, said his division had made available budgets to 65 affected schools to repair their damaged buildings.

"The short-term goal is to make sure schools with damaged buildings can resume teaching activities as soon as possible. The coming winter vacation will be an ideal period for construction," Hung said.

To compensate for the fact that school teachers are not construction professionals, the bureau also plans to set up a consulting committee made up of construction professionals to review plans for school constructions.

"Properly qualified committee members can conduct strict and professional reviews of these projects," Hung said.

The bureau also expressed its desire to hire PCM firms to supervise school construction to ensure quality control.

PCM firms would carry out the task of coordinating with schools, architects in charge of designs and inspections, as well as construction companies.

Deputy Mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), former chairman of the Cabinet-level Public Construction Commission, said he agreed with the bureau's initiative to involve PCM in large-scale school construction projects. "PCM can enhance the overall efficiency of construction management," Ou said.

Citing the construction of the World Trade Center in Taipei as an example, Ou said projects under PCM supervision proved to be economical, overturning the commonly held belief that involving PCM in construction projects just encourages cost overruns.

He said to introduce PCM in major public construction projects has become common practice in advanced countries during the past two to three decades, but remains a relatively new concept in Taiwan.

Ho Yu-jung (何幼榕), deputy director of the building standards division of the city's Bureau of Public Works, agreed with Ou.

"This is a great initiative because it will help schools focus on education instead of involving themselves in the construction business," Ho said.

Ma said he agreed with the bureau's plan to set up a professional committee to review school construction projects.

Although supporting the bureau's idea to involve PCM in school construction projects, Ma urged the bureau to study its feasibility in detail before implementing the new policy.