Structural surveys of Derry schools to check for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)

Schools in Derry are to be subject to structural surveys to check for the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
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The Department of Education said the review will take place as a matter of urgency.

The action is being taken after authorities in England issued safety guidance about aerated concrete which was used from the 1950s to the mid-1990s in precast panels in flat roofs, and occasionally in floors and walls.

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Nearly 150 schools in England containing RAAC have been told to close until mitigations are put in place due to concerns about potential structural deficiencies.

Derry schools are to be surveyed for the presence of RAAC.Derry schools are to be surveyed for the presence of RAAC.
Derry schools are to be surveyed for the presence of RAAC.

The emergency measure was prompted after the sudden failures and collapses of roofs containing RAAC in a number of operational schools in Britain over the past five years.

Following developments in England, the Department of Education here has decided to take action.

A spokesperson said: “The Department of Education has commissioned the Education Authority to carry out structural surveys to ascertain the extent to which RAAC may be present in schools across Northern Ireland. This work is being taken forward as a matter of urgency to ensure that any necessary mitigations are put in place promptly.

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Schools will be contacted by the Education Authority as work progresses.”

A guidance document issued by the British education authorities explained why the action was necessary.

"In December 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) and the Local Government Association (LGA) made building owners aware of a recent building component failure in a property constructed using RAAC.

"In May 2019, the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) raised an alert to emphasise the potential risks from such construction, highlighting the failure of a RAAC panel roof construction within an operational school. This collapse was sudden with no apparent warning.

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"Since then, we have been made aware of further sudden collapses of RAAC panels in roofs that appeared to be in good condition. It is therefore essential that all responsible bodies undertake work to identify any RAAC they have in their estate,” the document states.

The guidance explains how concerns had been raised in the 1990s.

“It was recognised that the in-service performance was poor with cracking, excessive displacements and durability all being raised as concerns.”