05 September 2023

104 UK schools instructed to close amid concrete crisis

David Richardson Senior Associate

On the last day of August and just before the new school term, the Government told 104 schools in the UK to shut all or parts of buildings that were built with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) immediately, unless “safety mitigation measures” are implemented.

RAAC is a lightweight alternative to traditional concrete, made of concrete, water and limestone. It is typically used in concrete panels and roofs. It was used extensively in the 1950s during the rebuild efforts after World War Two and continued to be used up until the 1990s.

It has now transpired that RAAC has a limited lifespan of only 30 years (approximately) and could fail if exposed to moisture. Once RAAC does start to deteriorate, it does so much faster than traditional concrete and can collapse with little or no warning. For example, the roof of a school in Kent collapsed just 24 hours after structural strain was noted.

Reports suggest that RAAC has been used in a number of public buildings including schools and hospitals and therefore more closures are predicted.

It is important that the any structures built with RAAC are inspected swiftly by a qualified expert, appropriate risk management strategies are both formulated and put in place, and, if necessary, remedials works are completed. 

Failure to act or act quickly could give rise to both civil claims and criminal charges. To discuss appropriate steps to take, please get in touch with our commercial disputes team as soon as possible.

David Richardson, Wilkin Chapman LLP
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