Concrete Expert Speaks Out about the UK’s RAAC Concrete Crisis


Normally in the UK, September marks a new school year. This year however, has been anything but normal. Over 150 schools across the country have been partly or fully closed due to a serious concern – the durability of the concrete used throughout these buildings.

What is RAAC?

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete is most commonly known as RAAC. It is a lightweight mix that is used in construction for buildings. It has been popular since the 1950s and most commonly used up to the 1990s, not just in the UK but across the globe. Recent tests have raised concerns about the safety and durability of this choice of building material. 


The aerated nature of the concrete means that RAAC is less durable than a traditional concrete mix. RAAC has a lifespan of around 30 years. It is also very susceptible to moisture, which in the UK would not sound like a great choice of building material. If it is exposed to water then its properties can diminish pretty quickly. The ability for this type of concrete to weaken over time can result in structural deterioration and even collapse. Concerns about using this type of concrete were raised around 30 years ago in 1994. 

RAAC vs Ready Mix


Ready Mix concrete on the other hand has a range of advantages over RAAC, especially in the context of this crisis. Ready Mix is known for its consistent quality and durability, It is mixed using precise controlled conditions at a concrete batching plant which minimises the risk of variations that on-site mixing brings. This level of consistency results in a higher quality of build, guaranteed structural integrity that schools and public buildings should have been constructed with. It is this eye for detail that is needed in times of safety concerns. Ready mix concrete can also be mixed to match your specific requirements, giving you absolute control over mix design, strength and durability requirements. In a time of evolving safety regulations in the construction industry, Ready Mix concrete is a dependable choice for projects. 

How has concrete affected schools and public buildings? 


The damage caused by RAAC is not limited to school buildings, in fact this type of concrete has been used in other public buildings such as, but not limited to hospitals, airports, council housing and theaters. The concrete crisis has not only put a strain on public services but also infrastructure. 


How has the government handled the concrete crisis?


The response of this criss by the British Government has not been met with praise, In fact, ministers in England and Scotland have been accused of covering up evidence that would have brought this problem to light a lot sooner. There are claims that this was uncovered several months ago. UK Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has issued an apology in response to the crisis.  


The National Audit Office (NAO) highlighted this cost and complicated nature of the response to the concrete crisis. As a response, the government has committed to rebuilding seven hospitals built with RAAC that have been structurally compromised.  However, many people in the UK are claiming this is not good enough handling of the situation, that it was too slow of a response and the rate of repair is not going to meet what is required. 


Addressing Safety Concerns in Construction


This is not the first type of crisis of this kind. In fact, there have been quite a few instances of similar construction materials or practices that have led to serious safety concerns. This type of crisis emerges as a result of materials that were once considered safe to use, or were not subject to enough testing and are later found to have serious health risks. 


For example, asbestos, when it first emerged as building material. Was praised for its resistance to fire. However, years later the material that was used heavily in schools, homes and other public buildings led to a global asbestos crisis. Similarly, lead paint and piping was very common to use in construction, but once lead poisoning was uncovered, using this type of material is forbidden. A recent situation was uncovered with the cladding crisis that developed as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire that led to an overhaul of council blocks that were clad in an unsafe choice of cladding that was particularly flammable. Situations like this have highlighted the importance of constant risk assessment and testing processes that scrutinize construction practices. The constant adaptation of safety protocols as a result of any concerns has led to stricter regulations, updates in building codes and an increasing awareness of safety among staff when it comes to safe and sustainable construction materials and processes. 


Make informed decision with a concrete expert


This crisis highlights the crucial role that concrete experts have in guaranteeing the safety and longevity of construction projects and buildings alike. Concrete experts bring a lot of valuable knowledge on construction materials, techniques and safety measures. In light of situations like this, it is vital to make an informed decision when it comes to these. When it comes to assessing structural integrity, selecting the right materials that are sustainable, choosing concrete mixes that manage moisture, all of these factors add up to creating a durable structure. Consulting a concrete expert will enable you to create a culture of safety that results in a finished product that is long-lasting and environmentally friendly. If you have any concerns about your project, or future projects, speak to our team of experts today.