Failure of three ‘non-critical’ RAAC beams forced safety rethink

Aaron Morby 11 months ago
Share

The education secretary has revealed that the sudden failure over the summer of three RAAC concrete planks previously classified as non-critical prompted the decision to close over 100 schools.

In a statement to Parliament Gillian Keegan said surveyors discovered the non-critical RAAC failures during a programme of assessments started last September.

This led to the identification of three previously classified non-critical risk failures that happened without warning.

The first was in a commercial building setting, the second in a school, with the most recent failure, which came to light at the end of August, prompting the decision to close a further 104 school buildings.

She said: “In September 2022 we started a programme where the DFE sent a professional surveyor to assess whether RAAC is present.

“If RAAC was present, the previous DFE guidance was to grade it as critical or non-critical, and only take buildings out of use for critical RAAC cases.

“Such was the level of our concern, however, that I asked officials to seek evidence of risks, including to non-critical RAAC.

“It is because of this proactive approach that we discovered details of three new cases over the summer, where RAAC that would have been graded as non-critical had failed without warning.”

Keegan added: “The first was in a commercial setting. The second was in a school in a different educational jurisdiction.

“In that instance, the plank that failed remained suspended, resting on a steel beam. As the plank was fully intact, DFE engineers were able to investigate the situation. In their professional judgment, the panel affected would have been previously rated as non-critical, but it had failed.

“Ministerial colleagues and I were already extremely concerned, but then a third failure of RAAC panels occurred, at a school in England in late August. This was a panel that had previously been graded as non-critical.

“Because children’s safety is our absolute priority, it was right to make the difficult decision to change our guidance for education settings, so that areas previously deemed to contain non-critical RAAC are now being closed.”

Keegan confirmed the DfE will publish the list of the 156 schools with confirmed cases of RAAC this week, with details of initial mitigations in place.

After that, she pledged to provide updated information as new cases of RAAC were confirmed and existing cases resolved, following the safety reporting model adopted in the cladding fire safety crisis.

In an echo of action taken over RAAC in the hospital sector, contractors now fear there will be a further slippage in the school rebuilding programme as at risk schools are prioritised over others being worked on in the programme.

One told the Enquirer: “We saw this in the new hospital building programme when the Government suddenly added five hospital projects to its £20bn building programme due to the risk of structural collapse because of weak concrete.

“These replaced existing schemes rather than adding to the total programme. It looks like the same will happen in education now the Government is suggesting emergency work will be delivered within existing budgets.”

In the schools crisis statement to parliament Keegan said DfE official were working with three contractors to ramp up the supply of temporary buildings, and accelerated the installation of these.

She said: “We have the support of our leading utility companies to ensure that those classrooms can be opened. In the small number of schools with confirmed RAAC, disruption to face-to-face learning has usually lasted a matter of days.

“We will also fund the longer-term refurbishment or rebuilding projects, where these are needed, to rectify RAAC.”

About a third of schools surveyed have been found to have used RAAC concrete.

She revealed that the remaining 600 priority schools still needing surveys were now in an accelerated programme.

To deliver this, the DfE has enlisted five more building surveying companies to the three in place to ensure sufficient capacity to complete the emergency assessments within the next couple of weeks.

Latest news

BAM plans wave of job cuts at UK Construction arm

Co-op Live arena plunges Bam Construction to £19.5m first-half loss
11 hours ago

Robot tunnel builder goes into administration

Hypertunnel was hoping to revolutionise how underground structures are built
12 hours ago

“Scrap CITB” say three quarters of construction firms

Payroll giant Hudson Contract calls for CITB to be absorbed into new Skills England training body
11 hours ago

Wates to build £86m Guildford Council housing scheme

40% of the 248 homes will become council homes under partnership deal
12 hours ago

£100m Prestwich Village revival approved

Vinci and Willmott Dixon in chase for Muse-led regeneration scheme
21 hours ago

Carbon negative asphalt trialled on M11

Skanska and Tarmac test CO2 absorbing aggregate material on stretch of Essex motorway
13 hours ago

Father and son sentenced over covid construction loan fraud

Bristol builders given suspended jail sentences over bogus Bounce Back Loans
12 hours ago

Beck Interiors files administration notice

Supply chain has suffered delayed payments from £139m-turnover luxury fit out specialist
2 days ago

Green light for York Central civil service office hub

£60m office project accelerates York Central goods yard redevelopment
1 day ago

Blenheim House Construction enters administration

Administrators looking at options on present projects
2 days ago

Profits rise at Esh Group with more to come

Contractor confident about year ahead as market conditions move in right direction
2 days ago

Piling specialist Van Elle sees housing orders rise 30%

Mark Cutler says firm on course to deliver 10% annual sales growth
1 day ago

HS2 to spend £100m shutting sites where work never started

Remediation of sites no longer needed for cancelled Phase 2 will take three years
2 days ago

Willmott Dixon wins £61m deal for new Army dog unit

Contractor to revamp Kendrew Barracks in Rutland
1 day ago

Stockport advances 4,000-home Town Centre East plan

Council seeks consultants to steer plan for 280-acre area in the city
2 days ago

ISG sale imminent as buyers set-up UK holding company

South African nutrition entrepreneur and Australian partner primed to take over
3 days ago

CR Construction wins £210m Manchester towers

Construction to start next year on four blocks ranging from nine to 34-storeys
3 days ago

Southern Housing to rationalise supply chain following merger

Firms put on alert for £1.7bn construction framework renewal
2 days ago

Decision delayed on 52-storey Isle of Dogs tower

Hong Kong developer plans 460 flats block next to Millwall Inner Dock
2 days ago

Go-ahead for £850m North London estate rebuild

Flagship Edmonton housing estate redevelopment will deliver 2,000 new homes
2 days ago

Mace lands £184m Oxford Science Park contract

Contractor to build trio of laboratory and office buildings
3 days ago

Worker paralysed in 30ft fall during electricity pylon demolition

Specialist firm fined £240,000 after court hears linesman attached lanyard to a loosened steel section
2 days ago

Sir Robert McAlpine clinches £4bn Somerset gigafactory

2.6m sq ft car battery plant will require over 2,000 workers at peak construction
4 days ago

House builder Hill Group tops £1bn turnover

Group's controlled development pipeline stands at £10bn
3 days ago

Higgins wins 360 new homes job in south London

Firm will now work up planning for phase 2 of Brixton housing project
4 days ago

Kier starts £48m Ealing high school job

Northolt High School to be rebuilt for 1,130 pupils
4 days ago

Plans in for £64m Suffolk A12 upgrade

Work to start next summer on dualling and junction upgrades
4 days ago

Man suffers multiple fractures in HS2 accident

Engineering firm fined after fall leaves worker in hospital for two months
3 days ago

Go-ahead for Milton Keynes’ largest private rental project

Platform_ to build 20-storey scheme of 335 flat next to train station
6 days ago

A2Dominion reins in new-build and cuts development team

Housing association to stop private new build sales in big strategy switch
6 days ago

Contractor services