RAAC: The first instances of dangerous concrete have been identified at these UK universities
St Andrews Student Union Club will be closed for Freshers’ Week
The first instances of dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) have been identified at UK universities.
RAAC has been found in buildings at The University of St Andrews, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier and The University of Dundee.
Update: As of today (Friday 8th), RAAC has also been found in buildings at University of Stirling, Heriot-Watt University, University of Bradford, Brunel University London, University of Sussex and Cardiff University, according to the BBC. In Sussex work has begun to replace roof panels containing RAAC in five buildings, and in Cardiff an area in one building has been closed as a precautionary measure.
In information obtained by The Tab via Freedom of Information Request, The University of St Andrews has found the dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in its Students’ Association Building.
Parts of the building, including the Student Union’s nightclub Club 601 and the StAge in the Union will be closed to remove the RAAC until Summer 2024.
According to the Student Union’s website, “Club 601 is the only full nightclub in St Andrews.” This means that this building will be shut for all Freshers’ Week events.
The University of Edinburgh has found RAAC in eight university buildings.
The University of Dundee has identified two buildings with RAAC, including the Students’ Union building and the Engineering building.
RAAC is a cheap building material that was used mostly in roofing, but also in floors and walls, between the 1950s and 1990s.
It is a cheaper alternative to standard concrete, is quicker to produce and easier to install. However, it is less durable and has a lifespan of around 30 years. The concrete can crumble when exposed to moisture meaning any buildings using the concrete could potentially collapse.
Speaking on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme, director of estates at The University of Dundee, Rose Jenkins said removing RAAC from campuses would be a big undertaking. She said: “It’s going to cost millions. It’s going to be really big projects that are going to be quite significant.
“For us, that’s because they are on really big buildings, in other cases, it could be a lot more straightforward and smaller.”
All university buildings containing RAAC have been closed, cordoned off and if anyone needs to access them, a full risk assessment will need to take place.
St Andrews University said: “The Students’ Association and the University are working hard to ensure that the impact of the closure is minimal, for our students, staff and the local community.
“The rest of the Union will remain open as usual with no interruption to the weekly events calendar. All Union weekly events previously held in Club 601 will be hosted in Main Bar.”
The University of Edinburgh said: “None of the affected buildings includes residential accommodation, however, some of the areas do include teaching, laboratory and office spaces. We are looking into appropriate alternative spaces as a matter of urgency so that activities scheduled to take place in these areas can be relocated where possible.
“We expect restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks while additional assessments take place. We are aware that this may affect some Welcome Week activities and we are doing all we can to minimise disruption for all users of the affected areas.”
A spokesperson for The University of St Andrews told The Tab: “In St Andrews, we’ve been fortunate to be able to act before RAAC became a national emergency. Our staff were aware of concerns being expressed in professional circles last year about RAAC safety, and we commissioned an early full survey of our estate.
They continued: “Engineers identified RAAC in the roof space of one building, affecting two venues in the Students’ Association, and these were closed immediately. Specialist remedial work began months ago, and the replacement roof and reinstatement works are expected to last until early summer 2024. This could cost us as much as £5 million, but we will never skimp on safety.
“Student leaders have worked closely with the University to minimise the impact of the enforced closure for our students, staff and the local community. Activities previously held in the venues, such as Freshers’ Week events, have been moved to other spaces. The rest of the Students’ Association building is not affected and remains open as normal.”
These are the first instances of dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete at UK Universities. This story will be updated as and when we know more.
Featured image before edits via Google Maps and Andy Quezeda on Unsplash.