RAAC crisis chance to speed-up green retrofits

RAAC panels were used from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s to keep pace with growing school numbers. However, as it is less dense than traditional concrete and has a lower compressive strength, it should be periodically replaced like timber roof battens, but this has not been done for hundreds of schools and other buildings now deemed at risk.

Related topics:  Construction,  Buildings,  safety
Property | Reporter
11th September 2023
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Last week, the government revealed 156 schools contained reinforced autoclave aerated concrete (RAAC), of which 104 required urgent action with 52 already repaired.

A National Audit Office, NAO, report in June found more than a third of English school buildings were past their initial design life making them energy inefficient and expensive to run.

An estimated £7b a year is needed to maintain, repair and rebuild schools but the Treasury has allocated just £3.1bn.

The Federation of Master Builders, FMB, chief executive Brian Berry said: "Local builders may struggle to cater for the scale of the issue facing schools, as they tend to have full schedules for months ahead.

"This could affect the speed of work like putting up portable classrooms, to ensure children don't miss lessons."

The sort of sub-contractors expected to be in demand following a structural survey include roofers, insulation installers, and asbestos removal specialists.

More than half of FMB members have said they are falling behind schedule as they struggle to hire skilled workers to fulfil their order books.

It's estimated nearly 20 hospitals, several theatres and other public state buildings also contain this type of cheap lightweight concrete which lasts for just 30 years.

Construction Leadership Council, CLC, building safety expert Graham Watts said: "There is an urgent need to identify and remedy any risks to the public.

"We will support the programme of expert assessment of structures, both public and private, to identify where RAAC has been used and to deal with it to make it safe."

Green retrofits could be a positive spin-off

The National Federation of Builders said widespread remediation could offer the chance to conduct green retrofits.

NFB policy director James Butcher explained: "Forward-thinking building clients would do well to consider how they can also use the opportunity to install energy efficiency measures.

"Because RAAC is likely to be found in roof panels and wall panels, it is a prime chance to replace it with efficiency fabric as well as to install mechanic ventilation systems."

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