Home » Counting the cost of the RAAC crisis

Counting the cost of the RAAC crisis

Published: 13/09/2023

The full extent of the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) crisis could cost hundreds of millions of pounds and take years to rectify, BCIS has outlined.

The Department for Education (DfE) last week confirmed that 147 schools had been identified as containing RAAC, though responses from a small minority of schools are still outstanding, which will likely push the total higher.

Of the schools impacted, four moved entirely to remote learning at the start of term, 20 had hybrid arrangements in place, and 19 delayed the pupils’ return so safety measures could be implemented, suggesting a range in the severity of concerns in different settings.

Dr David Crosthwaite, Chief Economist for BCIS, said: ‘All schools known to contain RAAC are being assigned a DfE caseworker and structural engineers are tasked with assessing the condition of the panels in question and, where appropriate, making plans for their removal and replacement.

‘Clearly the remedial work necessary is going to have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, and the costs associated with that will vary hugely.

‘The problem in one school could be confined to one room, whereas in another a total rebuild could be needed. Where RAAC panels have been found, tearing the whole thing down won’t be necessary if they are still in sound condition and can instead be subject to a monitoring regime.

‘An additional complication, which would go hand-in-hand with the period in which many of these buildings were constructed, is whether or not asbestos will also be present.’

‘According to our estimating price data, replacing a school roof, probably the most likely scenario in lieu of starting again, could cost in the region of £1 million per building, whereas a total rebuild could come in around £5 million.

Source: BCIS Major Works and Alterations & Refurbishment Estimating Prices. Based on a typical school building with no access issues. Prices could vary significantly in individual circumstances.

‘When we factor in the other kinds of buildings we already know to be affected, including a number of hospitals, and where RAAC may potentially be found once extensive investigations have been carried out, the cost across what will be predominantly public sector buildings, could be substantial.’

The cost of works is not the only hurdle for schools and other affected settings. The RAAC crisis has come at a time when labour shortages are already impacting construction projects.

Dr Crosthwaite said: ‘The RAAC problem creates a lot of work for surveyors and maintenance contractors, Acrow prop manufacturers and Portacabin manufacturers. However, according to the Office for National Statistics, more than one in five construction businesses are experiencing a shortage of workers.

‘Anecdotally we have heard of schools trying to contact local structural engineering firms but not being able to find anyone with availability, and in the days immediately following the school closures, there were job adverts calling for civil and structural engineers looking for work to help deal with the skyrocketing need for their skills across multiple sectors.’

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