One of the major construction stories of recent weeks has been about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). Its presence in schools up and down the country, and its associated safety fears, has led to more than 150 being closed.
Anderson Associates, who offer full structural surveys from our base near Ipswich, are a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Here we look at RICS’ official advice if you are worried that your property contains this type of concrete, as well as how we can help if you ever need any form of structural survey.
What is RAAC?
RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete that was used in panel or plank form from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s. It was mostly used for flat roofs as well as some wall and floor panels. The reason why it became so popular at that time was because it was relatively inexpensive and was used in a wide range of public and private buildings (although not that many residential homes).
As a result of it having an open texture, with bubbles that are often visible (see picture above). This means that water can get into and damage RAAC more easily than regular concrete. This is especially true if there’s any steel reinforcement in the concrete.
As a result of its cheap and lightweight nature, it was not predicted to have a long lifespan. Despite this, some schools which were not deemed to be ‘at risk’ suffered damage and potential collapses over the summer, hence the school closures. This is why attention is now turning to the other buildings. However, the numbers of private sector buildings which could be affected is thought to be relatively small.
What Should I Do if I Think My Building has RAAC?
If you haven’t got the paperwork and so don’t know whether RAAC has been used, the RICS recommends that you don’t inspect the property yourself. Instead, you should call a structural engineer or an independent chartered surveyor such as Anderson Associates.
Our principal, Paul Anderson, is not only a member of the RICS but also the Chartered Institute of Building.
The RICS has already been advising the Government’s Department for Education about their current problem in schools as well as other public buildings such as hospitals which are either being inspected or already have some remedial works in place.
The experts should be able to tell you if you have RAAC in your property, how much, and what you should do. In some cases, they will be able to help put together a schedule of Planned Preventative Maintenance surveys to minimise the risk.
How Long Could It All Take to Rectify?
These qualified professionals may recommend short-term remedial measures, such as propping up the roof with suitable supports. More permanent solutions, such as replacing the entire roof or ceiling, will take a lot longer.
An important point to note is that some of these remedial works may need planning permission, for instance if a flat roof is being replaced with something more conventional. There will inevitably be some disruption, particularly if your affected area has a lot of footfall or permanent occupancy during work hours. In cases such as these you may need to use alternative entryways, or to move staff and associated operations temporarily. However, the disruption need not be as severe if, say, the RAAC is found in a storeroom or somewhere that isn’t used as much.
Full Structural Surveys in Ipswich from Anderson Associates
At Anderson Associates, we offer full structural surveys for properties in Suffolk, Essex, Kent and many parts of London. This type of survey is more comprehensive than many home surveys and focuses on the main walls and roof of the property, whether it’s a home, business or public building.
Photo: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/MARCO BERNARDINI