The concrete was used in schools, colleges and other building construction from the 1950s up until the mid-1990s, when its stability was called into question due to cracking, excessive displacement, and durability all being raised as causes for concern.
The government has now called for 104 schools to vacate buildings with RAAC, days before the start of a new term.
These schools were found to have been built using RAAC in some capacity — panels of which are often found in floors, walls and roofs — without mitigations in place.
The government has said that buildings that have been found to contain RAAC should remain out of use until appropriate mitigations are in place, even in cases where they were previously deemed non-critical.
Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Union of Education, said the announcement was “absolutely disgraceful” and will cause “massive disruption” to the education of thousands of children and huge inconvenience to school leaders.
The government has said it plans to fund all mitigation works that are capital funded.
Schools will have to fork out other expenses, such as additional transport costs for local authorities.
Members of the development industry have had their say on the news.
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Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the National Federation of Builders, commented: “Just like all buildings, those with RAAC need a good maintenance schedule and periodic assessments to ensure they remain structurally sound and safe.
“There are some concerns that a failure to maintain and assess buildings with RAAC may see the building safety levy used to further tax innocent construction companies for other failures.”
Alex Hunn, managing director at Sillence Hurn, added: “The government has known about RAAC for a while now, and the department for education has been issuing warnings for schools to check their buildings since the end of last year — leaving it until the week before schools go back is really poor.
“[RAAC] was a cheap building material that was supposed to serve as a short-term solution to the housing crisis after the second world war and should not be present in any buildings today, let alone schools, where it is now putting thousands of children and staff in danger.
“For the market, they will now have to consider building surveys as an essential safety measure rather than an option, because RAAC can collapse with little to no warning.”
A spokesperson at DeVilliers, also said: “It’s not been used for 30-or-so years, but any building where this was used will not be possible to develop for any other purpose and will need to be rebuilt.
“A similar issue arose with High Alumina Cement also [being] used widely in the 1950s and 1960’s which also saw structural failures of concrete frames.