MAJOR fire hazards were identified at Scotland's second oldest university after a safety review was ordered including "neglectful storage of combustible materials".

A report, obtained by The Herald using freedom of information laws, shows nine recommendations were made to mitigate fire risks at Glasgow University's Gilbert Scott Building and the Hunterian Museum, which houses art by Rubens and Rembrandt.

The review was prompted by the fire at Glasgow School of Art on May 23, 2014 that ravaged the prized Mackintosh building.

A report is due to be published into the second fire that broke out four years later as the building was nearing the end of a £35million restoration project. 

The fire risk at Glasgow University's grand Bute Hall, which was built between 1878-1884, is described as "substantial" in the report. 



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"Whilst the ignition risk in this area is considered low, the compartmentation and lack of passive or active protection to the timber elements of structure, will do little to restrict fire spread.

"The risk is further compounded due to limited access options that would make firefighting intervention strategies difficult."

The report, which has never been made public, recommends that the university should consider installing a low pressure water mist system and also stresses the need for "clear and robust management processes" in regards to staff and student activities.


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The first art school fire was attributed to a student using a can of expanding foam near a projector which quickly spread due to poorly protected voids and ducts which supply buildings with essential services.

A sub basement area in the south, front area of the Gilbert Scott Building is also singled out for major fire hazards.

"There are numerous ducts and voids within this area, with passive and active fire safety measures poorly adopted. The associated risks are further compounded through neglectful storage of combustible materials, which at times is concerning."

The report recommends that all storage is removed immediately.

Fire stopping which means the sealing off of any openings is said to be of "poor quality" in the upper floors of the building, which are used for teaching, due to extensive refurbishment works carried out over many years, "compromised further through poor levels of workmanship and management control".

The university is advised to re-consider how the spaces are used and a sprinkler system is recommended.


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The review describes how fire risks in historic buildings have increased due to changes and adaptations such as "the careless introduction of openings" created for heating and ventilation systems.

The University Chapel is described as having a moderate risk of fire. "Fires in places of religious worship are not uncommon and the wide use of exposed timber is often viewed as a significant factor." The report recommends an additional survey is carried out.

The report recommends that a more detailed survey should be carried out at the Hunterian Museum to identify voids and shafts "that have the potential to support fire spread" and the overall risk is described as moderate.

Glasgow University said it had taken a number of actions after the review including further investigations to identify hidden ducts and voids and upgrades and improvements to help prevent fire spreading.

Inspections of electrical equipment were increased in "key heritage buildings" and the university commissioned a 3-D map of the Gilbert Scott Building and extensive photographs to support any reconstruction due to fire or any other cause.


The report does not mention if a sprinkler system has been installed as recommended.
Prolific architect George Gilbert Scott undertook the grand task of designing the university spectacular Gothic buildings after the campus relocated from High Street to Gilmorehill.  The university took up its new official residence in 1870.

It boasts more listed buildings than any other Scottish university, including the spectacular Cloisters and the Lion and the Unicorn Staircase.

The Bute and Randolph halls were completed after Scott's death in by his son Oldrid in 1891, which also included the Gothic bell tower, which stands at 278 feet high.

Gordon Gibb, who owns an architecture practice in Glasgow’s west end said “great care” must be taken if construction work is being carried out in historic buildings that are being used concurrently. 

He said: “A building is at its most vulnerable during construction operations. 

“Great care must be exercised if the building is to be occupied at the same time. HSE guidance for vulnerable historic buildings indicates that occupation should not occur until compartmentation (the separation of bigger rooms into smaller units) is achieved.

“In this instance the building was occupied when the compartmentation was breached, and this is why the results of the fire were so extensive.

“The underlying theme in the Glasgow University report is the need for effective management in the protection of historic buildings in constant use.

“However it does not fully address the increased risk during construction work and the need for separation of works from people and uses.”

The Herald contacted the University of Glasgow for a response.