Councils dawdle on surveying collapse risk building material

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Tim Warneford featured in Schools Week

Tim Warneford has added his voice to the calls for funding to be made available for cash strapped schools in the identification and subsequent remedial works, to those whose building contain Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

School buildings constructed in the 1950’s are most likely to have been built with RAAC and with a life expectancy of approximately 30 years, there is increasing concern that not all schools are even aware of its existence due to both its inaccessibility at roof height or that it may have been over-boarded and is not visible.

In December the DfE published an update on its guidance for RAAC. It advises schools to collate records and check the age of construction of school building blocks and any accompanying “as built design drawings” and to take photographs of any suspected RAAC to assist building surveyors and structural engineers help confirm its presence.

The identification of RAAC is not a straightforward task and many schools will need to commission surveys and possible structural calculations to quantify any risk posed by its current condition.

There have been recent collapses in school and church roofs where there was no prior warning of anything remiss.

Many schools will want definitive evidence from structural engineers reports that their roof structures are safe and to offset the risk of associated liabilities. The costs of such reports and an effective transfer of the liability will come at a price that many cannot afford. However, these costs will be small compared to those which schools will incur where it is calculated that removal is recommended.

Tim Warneford has argued that given the life expectancy of RAAC, known since the 1980’s and how its identification was not included as part of the DfE’s UK wide condition survey programmes; Property Data Collection and Condition Data Collection, it seems very unfair that schools themselves are being asked to fund these surveys and reports, let alone be liable for major capital refurbishments where the material is identified as posing a risk.

Whilst the School Rebuilding Programme will have included schools where RAAC has been identified and poses a significant risk of collapse, the question remains as to how many other schools have yet to identify its existence and what condition it is in?

The longer it takes to be able to answer this question, the longer the risk of further collapse and thereat to life and serious injury remains.

Read the Schools Week article here.

Any school needing advice on the identification of RAAC, please contact Warneford Consulting.