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Renewed focus on RAAC concrete threat at institutions

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With RAAC concrete construction used in schools from the 1950s-1990s exceeding its life cycle and becoming prone to collapse, CPC have been keen to draw attention to this most alarming news story.

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) is a lightweight form of concrete and was used in the construction of roofs, floors, walls and cladding at offices and schools during the aforementioned period. Regrettably, the durability of this material has proven itself to be limited, with a pair of unexpected roof collapses on school sites in 2018 leading to fears of further incidents, as well as highlighting the dangers such outdated material can pose to students and staff.

In March 2023, ITV News reported finding 68 schools with RAAC at their premises, with no fewer than 1,466 institutions unable to confirm whether or not the potentially life-threatening concrete formed part of their own school buildings; a sobering thought, after the roof of the staff room at Singwell Primary School in Gravesend came down out of the blue (although, mercifully, this happened on a weekend, with teachers and pupils elsewhere).

With the Department for Education's guidance on identifying RAAC published last December, coverage from the likes of The Guardian and Schools Week had since served to keep this worrying issue in the public eye, with one source for the latter highlighting the situation as a "ticking time bomb".

However, the problem garnered greater focus this past summer in the wake of a new, 49-page National Audit Office report. In one positive, the DfE had already announced in May it would provide funding for schools with RAAC present, to ensure it did not pose an immediate risk. Initially identifying some 572 affected institutions, premises underwent urgent checks during the month of June, with £6 million earmarked for the project at that point.

Since then, the issue has become headline news, with Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, revealing an RAAC beam collapse during the holidays had compelled the UK Government to instruct closures at no fewer than 104 institutions, due to urgent safety concerns.

At CPC, we are keen to direct readers to the advice and information from the Local Government Association in relation to RAAC, as well as signposting the specific Civil/Structural Consultants lot of our Estates and Facilities Professional Services DPS, should it be deemed to be helpful. Suppliers on this lot have confirmed they are able to carry out the necessary surveys which may help determine buildings at threat.

In addition, affected schools needing to support displaced learners through the procurement of laptops and/or adjacent technology may benefit from our compliant ICT Hardware and Peripherals Equipment purchasing framework, which is Recommended by the Department for Education.

We strongly encourage institutions to inform themselves, prioritise pupil and staff safety and take necessary action to prevent RAAC disasters, while recommending readers also take note of another warning - on the possible collapses of roofs with unusual hybrid concrete and steel strand trusses

This piece originally featured in June/July's edition of our CPC Newsletter and has since been updated to reflect recent developments.

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