RAAC Concrete Crisis Persists
Continued demands are now being observed within the scaffolding sector due to the RAAC Crisis. RAAC, or reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, was extensively used in public buildings from the 1950s to the 1990s. However, in the mid-2000s, it was discovered to be susceptible to cracking, deflection, and corrosion, posing a risk of collapse. With over 150 schools in England and hundreds of other public buildings across the UK experiencing partial or full closure, the demands to bolster and support building contractors are increasing, placing additional demand on the scaffolding and access contracting sector.
NASC CEO, Clive Dickin, commented:
“NASC members are prepared to assist the construction and facilities management sector in responding to the challenges posed by RAAC. The demand may further underscore the talent shortage the scaffolding sector is facing, and NASC is reaching out to various government ministers to discuss this skills shortage.
The government has faced criticism for its handling of the crisis, as it did not publish a list of affected schools until September 2023, despite being aware of the problem since 2018. The Department for Education (DfE) has indicated that it has advised schools to have “adequate contingencies” in place and has allocated £1.8 billion for school repairs in 2023-24. The DfE has also established a dedicated helpline and email address for schools with RAAC queries.
Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, stated: “RAAC is a legacy issue that dates back decades and reflects the lack of oversight and standards in the past. We have learned from the mistakes of previous governments and are determined to improve the quality and safety of our built environment. That is why we are investing in innovation, skills, and sustainability in the construction sector.”
The scaffolding industry has also played a role in responding to the crisis, as scaffolding contractors have been hired to provide temporary classrooms, access platforms, and safety measures for affected buildings. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) has issued guidance for its members on how to deal with RAAC-related projects, including risk assessments, inspections, and contracts. NASC has also urged the government to provide more clarity and support for the scaffolding sector, which is already facing challenges such as skills shortages, material costs, and customs delays.
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) convened emergency talks and later established an expert panel to advise the government. The CLC has also issued guidance for building owners and occupiers on how to identify and assess RAAC.
“We urge all building owners and occupiers to check their records and identify if they have any RAAC elements in their structures. If they do, they should contact their local authority and seek professional advice as soon as possible. RAAC is a serious issue that requires immediate attention and action.”
The RAAC concrete crisis is a serious issue that affects not only the safety of building users but also the sustainability and profitability of the construction industry. It is essential that all stakeholders work together to find solutions and prevent further damage.
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