What is Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and why is it a safety risk?
RAAC is a reinforced form of lightweight concrete used to form panels or planks. These were mainly used in flat roofs but also some floor and wall construction in the UK from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s. RAAC was used in a range of building types, both public and private sector, but is believed to be more common in schools, hospitals and public buildings.
Why are there concerns about RAAC?
RAAC has proven to be not as durable (doesn't last as long) as other concrete building materials. There is a risk it can fail (collapse), particularly if it has been damaged by water or air pollution or if it was not formed correctly when originally made. It can fail suddenly, which has led to the recent action by the Department for Education (DfE).
Does RAAC pose a health risk?
The concerns about RAAC are only about its durability and structural performance. There is no evidence that it poses any other health risk.
You may have heard some reports linking RAAC to asbestos. This is because it was legal to use asbestos at the same time RAAC was being used in some buildings, but there is no link between RAAC and asbestos.
Before taking any steps to remediate (correct) RAAC construction by repair or removal works, there are legal procedures to follow to manage any asbestos risk.
Remediation of RAAC will include looking for asbestos on the specific site where the work is taking place and careful management if asbestos is found.
Is RAAC in my children’s school?
We have inspected schools that are our responsibility and could be affected - using the DfE’s guidance - to identify whether there is RAAC or suspected RAAC in their buildings. This includes schools built during the risk period and older schools that may have been modified during that time.
We are working closely with the DfE and all schools in the borough to provide advice and practical support to ensure all buildings are safe and that there is minimal disruption to teaching and learning.
What is the current situation in Islington regarding RAAC in school buildings?
Our focus is on the safety of our children and staff, first and foremost. At this time, there are no Islington schools on the government’s published confirmed risk list and all our schools are open as usual.
However, we know there is now one school in the borough with RAAC present in one of its buildings. The area has been closed off and the classrooms relocated within the school while more testing and remediation works are agreed and implemented.
As a precaution, we are carrying out investigations at a small number of other schools. If RAAC is found, we will support the school to follow the DfE’s guidance, take action to safeguard pupils and staff, and make the building safe.
What about my council home?
We take our responsibilities as a social landlord seriously. We have a rigorous understanding of our housing stock and the investment required to keep it to a good standard. It is still our priority to maintain safe and suitable homes for all residents living on our estates and in street properties.
Based on analysis of existing repairs reports, capital works and building surveys, there is currently no evidence of RAAC in our housing stock. We will we continue to monitor this closely, undertaking reviews of our stock and data based on the best and latest advice, to reassure residents.
What about other buildings in Islington?
In terms of the wider corporate estate, RAAC inspection has already been included as a standard requirement as part of our ongoing condition surveys programme. For those buildings where condition surveys have already been completed without a specific RAAC inspection, the Property team has instructed specialist surveyors to review their reports and tell us of any concerns.
The team has banded these buildings according to age, where possible, and is reviewing whether to seek a follow-up survey. However, it should be noted that we maintain our buildings to a high standard and the deterioration of any RAAC identified is usually revealed by other structural problems such as water ingress.
We will also create a working group with officers from Corporate Property, Housing and Education, along with other key services, that will seek assurances on this matter and take action where needed. This will focus on a range of buildings including community centres, social care facilities, and early years provision.