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The Hidden Risks of RAAC in Buildings: What You Need to Know

Recent headlines have highlighted the potential dangers of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in schools, causing concern among property owners. But what is RAAC, and why is it a matter of concern?

Understanding RAAC

RAAC is a lightweight cement-based material that was popularly used in the construction of roofs, walls, and floors of UK buildings from the 1950s to the 1990s. It's found in many large public buildings like hospitals, schools, and universities. However, RAAC is less durable than standard concrete, with an average lifespan of 30 years. Many buildings with RAAC are now aging, and if exposed to water, there's a risk of collapse.

Insurance Implications

If you're a property owner, it's crucial to understand the insurance implications of RAAC. Typically, building insurance covers sudden and unexpected damages, not wear and tear or foreseeable deterioration. So, if RAAC-related issues arise, insurance might not cover the building's damage unless caused by an unexpected external event. However, there might be coverage for damage to contents or business interruptions. Liability risks, especially concerning the safety of people in RAAC buildings, are also a concern.

What Insurers Look At

If you're seeking insurance for a building with RAAC, be prepared for questions like:

  • Do you know which of your properties have RAAC?

  • How often do you inspect and maintain RAAC areas?

  • If the building is closed, what security measures are in place?

  • Are there any temporary structures near the main building?

  • What steps have you taken to ensure the building's safety?

  • Is there a plan to replace the RAAC?

  • Have you hired a contractor for replacement, and what's the contract value?

Insurers will also consider factors like the building's location, occupancy, and overall condition.

Risk Management: Identifying and Addressing RAAC

It's vital to identify RAAC in your buildings. Look for 600mm wide concrete panels, distinctive ‘V’ shaped grooves, and a white or light grey colour. RAAC panels are soft and may show signs of bowing.

If you find RAAC, get a qualified building surveyor or structural engineer experienced with RAAC to survey the property. They'll recommend necessary actions, which might include adding structural support or even restricting access to certain areas. The survey will also guide you on managing RAAC in the long run, including potential removal.

In Conclusion

RAAC might have been a popular building material in the past, but today's property owners need to be aware of its potential risks. Regular inspections, understanding insurance implications, and seeking expert advice are crucial steps to ensure the safety and integrity of RAAC buildings.


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