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New figures show 174 schools in England have RAAC: An insight from the trades

20 Sep New figures show 174 schools in England have RAAC: An insight from the trades

New figures show that 174 schools in England have reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), increasing by 27 as of 14 September. The government stated that it would be updating its list every two weeks as Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson labelled the RAAC crisis as a ‘colossal shambles’.

Earlier this month, just days before the start of the new school term, over 100 schools across England are unable to reopen due to buildings being made with RAAC concrete. The differences between traditional concrete and the risks of RAAC use were discovered as far back as 1961, yet the government only began monitoring these buildings in 2018. Clive Holland – broadcaster on Fix Radio, the UK’s only national radio station dedicated to tradespeople – discusses how this issue should have been addressed decades ago, with a view from the trades.
“This is the tip of the iceberg, but they’ve known about this for years. This is not something new, in my opinion it’s a very clever ruse to deflect away from what’s happening in general in the United Kingdom.

“A lot of people in the construction industry have known this has been a thing for many years. There are public buildings all the same, the reason they wouldn’t have had inspectors to go around is because the inspectors would have charged a lot of money to do a report. These jobs can be rectified very easily, and they could have been rectified far easier if they were caught in the first instance. The panic button has now been pressed and with the panic button being pressed, that is a good time now for anybody doing the remedial works to make themselves a fortune. But the annoyance to me is this, it will come out of the beleaguered taxpayer. It shouldn’t be happening; this is a government problem.

“Don’t forget that a lot of these schools were built 30-40 years ago or even a lot of the public buildings 30-40 years ago. Even 30 years ago when they were building these air-rated concrete boards, they were built off-site to make it cheaper. They built these boards almost with like a spray concrete, they’re almost like scuffle boards. Like scuffle boards, they’re a solid concrete block with two steel pins, reinforcing them going through, but they were warned not only by the architects, but also from the builders at the time. The planners and commission would have been involved in this as well, and also the government bodies and the construction ministers would have been told that this has probably got a 30-year life span on it.

“So, therefore, what they should have done was on 10 years and on 20 years, there should have been an inspector of school buildings going into those buildings to examine them. Because a majority of those panels were used in flat roofs and on the floors. If you go back 30 years and say a school would be built and they put those panels on the roof, they would have been protected with a bitumen. That bitumen would have had a lifespan of probably about five years before it starts to degenerate. So, it needed to be inspected on the floor.

“There would have been a sealer that would have sealed the concrete on the floor. Now, imagine the footfall of all the kids and all the teachers, that breaks that floor down. Any moisture, any leakage that got into that concrete would start to expand it.

“Not only would you have had the falling of the concrete, breaking away the steel rods that went inside it nine times out of 10, the reinforcement rods would have been put in rusty because it had been laying around for ages and steel goes rusty. As that rusts and gets moisture on it, it expands and starts to then break down the out of the concrete. Once that occurred, there had no doubt that if teachers or representatives from the individual schools, colleges, or buildings would have noticed it and surely would have reported it. But it’s then down to the school governing bodies are looking at their figure and going, we can’t afford to do that, some would have reported it and it would have been completely ignored.

“Whereas the government should have grabbed the bull by the horns and said ‘this is our responsibility, we need to put an inspector to look at that building in 10, 20 and 30 years.”