Information from the long-awaited site visit by Councillors to the Pool site on Jan 26th 2024, which I first called for at Area Committee in September 2022.
10AM - We've met on site. There's some bad news...
UPDATE: THEY ARE NOT ALLOWING PHOTOS OR VIDEOS - OR TO RECORD - WHAT A STUPID IDEA FOR A SITE TOUR!!!
There's ways and means around GDPR, not photographing workers or security issues etc but still showing people the area and allow residents a sense of the building. But no...
Oh wait, one photograph is allowed, but it's a picture of the Councillors who turned up for the site visit. We are a photogenic bunch, but I'm sure people would prefer to see what the pool and the various rooms look like.
You will just have to take our word for it.
An initial video feedback is here now, so have a look. You will probably want to read more also below:
I took a lot of notes as I went around. Here is the written report:
We enter the old Leisure Centre building where we are due to get our safety briefing and sign the health and safety disclaimer. The first thing I notice is that this building looks far from finished. I was under the impression that this had been refurbished for some time, however while the internal wiring has been completed, the roof made secure and the heating system installed if not yet operational, there remains a lot of work.
There are lots of boxes of cables lying around. The Leisure Centre had a lot more things stored in it up until recently, but these have been removed. It's a sign of progress of sorts, but the general sense is of unfinished works. This is the old building, however, I wonder what the new build will look like?
We are carefully guided into the main pool building. Security is tight. We are told in no uncertain terms that we are not allowed to take photographs, videos or even voice memos. I view a lot of this as overkill, but as an SDCC engineer informs us, the contractor technically "owns" the building until it is handed over. They appear very guarded about what they want to go into the public domain.
We enter the main pool building. We were told by the SDCC County Architect that the heating is already installed here and the temperature difference between the pool complex and the leisure centre is discernable. Everything internal is dry and sealed. Lots of people are on site today - I estimate about 20 inside and more outside - and it's a busy work environment. However it's clear that the pool project still has a bit of a way to go.
We gather past what will be the reception area, into the café zone and what will be the viewing area over the two pools. We are told the multilevel pool structure will be arriving on Monday so that the floor can be adjusted for various requirements. These will range from water safety training to access for persons with disabilities and toddlers.
We are then shown a series of dance/fitness studio rooms that will be available to hire for set periods. The largest of these can be used as a full room or partitioned. The flooring is sprung wood and this has been inside the building for some time as it needs to acclimatise before being laid down. Each floor should take 2-3 days to complete so this won't be a key delay.
We notice that a lot of tiles for the pool are also lying around these rooms also. This work is due to start next week (early Feb). It will take ten days of tiling and also time to settle and grout. Councillors are given the opportunity to examine the tiles that are designed to prevent slippage around the banks.
We are now brought for a closer look at the multi depth pool, which will be 13 x 8 metres. As I mentioned before this can used for lifesaving training etc, as well as being a swimming area for toddler and disabled person use.
The main pool s 25m in length. In its unfinished state from a distance it looks quite small, but it is only when you get between it and the multi-level pool that you can see it's actually a decent size.
As we go around the perimeter walls of the pool are being painted.
The tiling is currently being put down on multi-depth pool and looks to be of a very high quality. The tiling for the leisure pool will commence Monday, as mentioned previously.
We are told that specialist products are needed for grouting and other pool specific works and our guide was keen to emphasise that these have had long lead times.
“It's very difficult to guarantee supplies at the moment. All the materials issues we’ve had during Covid still continue,” he states.
It's funny the other works that take time. For example the pool needs to dry out for 10-12 weeks after laying, apparently at a rate of 1mm a day.
We are brought in to what will be the gym and weights room. To be honest, I've seen bigger; it's medium sized in terms of locations specialising in gym offerings, but anyone who used to go to the small gym in the Leisure Centre back in the day will be impressed. It's about three times bigger than before and will fit a good spread of equipment. The flooring is already complete in this section, but it's heavily covered in floor protection.
The discussion is occasionally interrupted by construction materials being moved around or items being screwed into fixings.
We are allowed take one group photograph of the Councillors together in their high vis. The contractor insists this is for personal use only and not for social media, however they later relent and we are allowed to publish this one image. If I was allowed one photo it would have been of the pool and not a politician, but at least it's proof we were actually allowed in the building!
The entire pool area will be sealed off from the rest of the complex. We also get to see a section that will be hidden from the public when the building is open. There's a massive air conditioning duct under pool, but as this is quite tight we are not allowed see this. But the rest of the area we get to look at: the main plant room, the filtration system, boilers, cold water storage, air conditioning etc. There's a lot of things that will be in situ to make the whole building operate seamlessly.
We pass the sauna and steam rooms, which have work remaining. We get to see the main changing cubicles and showers. These also need specialist tiling.
The contractor has ordered and is awaiting a specific epoxy type of grout that’s currently hard to obtain supply wise. Assuming this arrives by the time the main pool tiling is complete, one more delay will be crossed off.
"Most of works we are doing are finishing out works," says our guide. This is reassuring to an extent, but to my uneducated eye, you are still talking several months of completion, even with all hands on deck.
So many things affect works. For example, the external works were affected by cold weather recently as temperatures needed to be above four degrees. Thankfully they are progressing again.
As we start to walk out of the main building you can see one example of the level of detail that is going into the building. There are a number of patches of paint on the wall near the entrance. All are white and all are aimed at maximising the light in what is already a bright and airy facility.
"The bottom line is, we are happy for the contractor to take their time in terms of ensuring quality of build. The small things need to be right and up to the highest standards. We don't want to be doing remediation works any time soon. We only want to be coming back to refurbish this building in 40 years," our guide tells us.
We are back in the Leisure Centre building and you can notice the drop in temperature. We try and get down to the nitty gritty.
SDCC are not shy of criticising the contractor for some delays or for taking responsibility for things they could have managed better. Hopefully there will be a time when we can have a full discussion on that thorny issue of accountability, something Councillors have no control over.
Councillors collectively secured the lion's share of funding for the pool and yours truly has been raising this issue for almost 25 years no. So like the general public, the first question all elected reps really want answered is.... when will the pool be ready?
The SDCC sookesperson is reluctant to throw out yet another date. "When we were told it would be ready in December, we were confident of that deadline in terms of what we expected in terms of materials deliveries. However the suppliers didn't come through and we were left waiting. To be honest we should be in more of a position to give a completion date in about three weeks..."
You can see the frustration on the Councillors' faces. We've been here before. The reason of course for this further lack of certainty is that external supply issues or utility connection issues can't be quantified. But once these are sorted the contractor is essentially then onto final completion works.
Pool cost has rocketed
We do learn something very interesting and quite revealing towards the end. When the pool contract started the price was in the region of €12.5 million. At today's prices it's closer to €20 million. "They are doing it at original prices but at a loss. To be fair to the contractor they have stuck to the project and committed to finishing the job."
There are ways and means of securing supplies faster and this usually involves paying more money. My reading is that this being a public project and one where the contractor is getting paid less than they would if it were tendered today means that money can't be splashed around. Supplies have to wait until they are delivered.
A personal estimate is that the pool will not be completed until at least May or June, possibly longer. The Council will not comment on this at present, but as well as estimating what works are required from a construction perspective, there is also the issue of fitting out the pool and training staff, all under the auspices of Aura Leisure.
We are told that the one month estimate for their preparation after construction completion might be a bit optimistic, but we will know more precisely on this element when Councillors meet with Aura Leisure on the 20th of February next. That's another day's reporting. I understand they will be doing whatever they can even while construction continues, but a lot of work can't be done until the contractor exits the site.
Was the site visit valuable?
Yes it was. However, I can't over-emphasise the value of pictures being made available so the general public can get a sense of the works going on. That was disappointing.
There's a lot of work happening simultaneously, but equally I was surprised at the amount of internal works remaining. Once supplies are sorted it looks like these can progress relatively quickly, but our earlier optimism about the pool opening being in January 2024 now appear way off the mark.
It's an impressive building, built to a high standard, with a lot of technical competence on display. Lucan people will get great use out of this facility when it's finally open. Our site visit definitely showed us a clear pathway to that opening and gave us a greater understanding of what remains to be done.
This won't stop me querying this project again and again until it finally opens its doors.
If you got this far, thanks for reading!
Dec/Jan rolling update here: https://www.paulgogarty.com/post/lucan-pool-update-dec-jan-2023-4
Also worth posting the reply to my Area Committee question from last Tuesday 23rd also:
MEETING OF LUCAN / PALMERSTOWN / NORTH CLONDALKIN AREA COMMITTEE
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
QUESTION: Councillor P. Gogarty
To ask the Chief Executive for an updated completion timeline for the Lucan Swimming Pool and to outline dates for a site visit by members and the promised meeting with Aura Leisure should these regrettably not have been scheduled by the date of this meeting?
The current programmed completion date for Lucan Pool is still under review and is to be confirmed with the contractor and the design team in light of a number of significant milestones which are due in the coming weeks including the delivery and installation of the moveable floor, the main screeding of the pool, tiling packages and the Irish Water drainage connection. We will be able to provide a more reliable programme for overall completion once these milestones are achieved.
A site visit for Councillors has been arranged for 10am on Friday, 26th January and a meeting with Aura Leisure on Tuesday February 20th at 2pm