- What We Do
Last year the Department for Education issued an alert drawing attention to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in educational buildings. A guide was issued to provide advice on how to identify RAAC and what steps to take if it is present. More recently however, RAAC has developed into a crisis in the public sector affecting many education buildings and leaving a number of questions unanswered.
RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete that was commonly used in school and other buildings from the mid-1950s to the 1990s. RAAC is mainly found in roofs, although occasionally in floors and walls. RAAC is less strong than traditional concrete and there have been problems as a result, which could have significant consequences.
This is not a new issue. The sector has been aware of RAAC since 2018 following a collapse of a school roof in Kent although there is now evidence that the material was under investigation before then. What has changed in the Summer of 2023 is the upgrading of the risk profile in light of some failures of RAAC that had been identified and graded as non-critical.
|December 2018||Department for Education (DfE) and the Local Government Association (LGA) made building owners aware of a recent building component failure in a property constructed using RAAC.|
|May 2019||SCOSS raised an alert to emphasise the potential risks from such construction. Raised an alert to emphasise the potential risks from such construction.|
|February 2021||DfE published technical guidance to assist RBs to identify, assess and manage RAAC.|
|Early 2022||DfE sent a questionnaire to all RBs asking them to provide information on RAAC in their estates.
When a positive response was received on the presence of RAAC (either from the questionnaire or from DfE casework), this was confirmed by DfE-commissioned engineers.
The initial deadline for responses to the questionnaire was set as 14 April 2022, although further reminders continued to urge completion into 2023.
|Late Summer 2023||Shortly before the start of term and following reported incidents of failure of “non-critical” RAAC during the summer holiday, DfE amended its advice resulting in the 6 Sept 2023 Government publishes list of 146 settings with confirmed RAAC along with mitigations.
This article from The Guardian gives more evidence about who knew what and when.
Most school and college building owners have already taken steps to identify RAAC. For those that have not, and would like professional assistance, Barker’s team of Chartered Surveyors and Structural Engineers can help to carry out initial checks to determine whether further advice or action is necessary.
As a practical guide please refer to Barker’s process map HERE.
The current advice is to take out of action any buildings with RAAC until mitigation/remediation works have been completed. Short term measures could be anything from temporary propping to structural stabilisation works.
RAAC was being used as a building material at the same time as asbestos and in many cases asbestos works will need to form part of any remediation package. Every school should have an asbestos register and asbestos management plan and this should be referred to before any inspections or remedial works are carried out.
Particular care should be taken with RAAC where asbestos is thought to have been removed in the past as this may not have been done to current standards or to a level that allows the safe removal or demolition of the building element. Read our RAAC Case Study here.
At the time or writing there is a degree of uncertainty about who is going to foot the bill for the costs associated with RAAC. Costs could be both revenue or capital and could range from hundreds to tens of millions of pounds depending on the circumstances.
Some schools have had bids to the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) turned down. These bids may now be prioritised in the next round. If you would like to discuss submitting or re-submitting a CIF bid for RAAC contact Barker here.
Many schools are self-insured through the Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) and it is not yet clear if this will provide cover.