Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC): Cross Sector Working Group minutes - August 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 August 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government
  • Built Environment Forum Scotland
  • Scottish Property Federation 
  • East Ayrshire Council/Heads of Planning Scotland
  • Police Scotland
  • Chartered Institute Housing
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • Fife Council
  • West Dunbartonshire Council / ALACHO
  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • University of Dundee and SAUDE
  • Scottish Funding Council 
  • North Ayrshire Council/LABSS
  • Historic Environment Scotland 
  • Scottish Futures Trust 
  • NHS Scotland Assure

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

Attendees introduced themselves briefly and the chair gave a short introduction on reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) as a product and the current issues arising from its previous use in buildings.

Terms of reference

The group has been convened to assist in dissemination of information on the risk posed by RAAC, the gathering and sharing of information on its prevalence and responses by building owners.

Information gathered will be collated to gain an overall illustration of the position in Scotland, focusing primarily on the public sector.  Information gathering will build in the work already undertaken across a number of sectors.

A draft ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) document was circulated for comment and development from attendees.  An updated version will then be circulated.

Scottish Government officials proposed a virtual meeting of this group should be held every three months but will vary to suit activity and matters to report.  It was agreed that in the initial period that meetings will be held on a monthly basis.

Action point 1 - attendees to provide feedback on the ToR, by 31 August

Background to the RAAC Cross Sector Working Group and its purpose

Officials set out some background to the RAAC cross sector working group, as follows:

  • UK research findings on RAAC risks were first published around 20 years ago
  • RAAC was a material manufactured and used in Scotland, the UK and elsewhere.  The issue under discussion is with reinforced plank systems, not standard unreinforced masonry products
  • officials have briefed the ministerial working group on building and fire safety (MWG) on this issue
  • RAAC papers were presented to the MWG in December 2022 and in June 2023. This led to a commitment to take a more proactive approach to coordination, including gathering and sharing of information
  • the current exercise is to gather and share information, in response to the First Minister’s commitment to understand the extent of the issue nationally (First Minister’s Questions, 29 June 2023)
  • current and planned work supported by this group will provide that information
  • officials are also seeking a more formal engagement with UKG and industry actors to give assurance that we are all aware of ongoing work across the UK and the role of current legislation

RAAC risks and available guidance

An overview of the guidance on RAAC was provided.  This included information papers and reports from the Building Research Establishment in 1996 and 2002.  Following the collapse of RAAC planks in two schools in England (2017) an overview of the published guidance from 2019 to the present including detailed information on identification, assessment and mitigation of risks from the Standing Committee on Structural Safety, the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), Office of Government Property,  Department for Education (DfE) and the Local Government Association (LGA). The LGA are strongly advising all responsible bodies to respond to the DfE survey as soon as possible.

A number of RAAC risks and defects were highlighted including end-bearing of roof and floor planks, misplaced and corroded reinforcement, prolonged water ingress increasing panel weight, reducing material strength and various increasing risks from excessive deflection.  Some of the risks around cracking and spalling and cut panels were also highlighted.  The IStructE guidance recommends a red, amber, green (RAG) risk rating proportionate approach ranging from red (critical risk) requiring urgent remedial action such as taking out of use, exclusion zones or temporary propping to green requiring only occasional inspection and assessment (every three years) depending on the condition unless there is further deterioration or signs of water ingress, etc.  Awareness raising, signage and loading restrictions may also be applied.  Additional tables are provided to assist with the risk assessment including the support / end bearing conditions and the deflection and cracking conditions (with and without evidence water ingress present).

Research work has been commissioned by NHS England to Loughborough University and we understand that the HSE are commissioning work to gather data on RAAC and develop an assessment tool to measure the risks associated with RAAC planks.  We will monitor the research and consider the findings and recommendations when published.

Action point 1 - officials to send out links to all available guidance in a note.

Work currently underway

A. Health

  • officials have worked with NHS assure, on a list of properties to be surveyed.  This information was also issued to the BBC under FOI
  • this noted 254 properties with high/medium likelihood of RAAC being present.  NHS Scotland Assure will be surveying all high likelihood properties
  • NHS Scotland Assure provided a short presentation of work to date
  • work to date has led to the appointment this month of a firm to undertake detailed surveys of relevant buildings

B. Schools

  • schools have received a lot of the media attention due to RAAC
  • Scottish Government officials have been working collaboratively with education services
  • issued a template to 32 local authorities to get a complete picture on where RAAC is present in school estate Scotland and looking to have a complete initial picture this month

C. Higher education

  • for colleges the current work is in line with the schools approach; looking to gather information and report back on 45 institutions across Scotland
  • questionnaires have gone out seeking a response on awareness of RAAC
  • for universities – several reports across the sector of varying degrees, many have not yet ‘lifted the lid’ on the issues at the moment with different organisations taking different approaches
  • lack of knowledge of informed consultants raised.  How can this group assist in building capacity to avoid competing for the same engineers

D. SFRS estate

  • survey of 396 buildings identified 15 with RAAC (desktop review).  One has been refurbished, 14 buildings remain.  Discovered RAAC in pitched roofs and wall panels, as well as flat roofs
  • actions taken based upon risks included quarterly inspections on all risk properties.  This work applied 2023 IStructE guidance, commissioned resurvey against new guidance on end bearing

E. Police estate

  • desktop review followed by visual and intrusive inspection – RAAC identified as present in 3 locations.  Two buildings have been vacated and the other had remedial action taken
  • recognise comments on lack of expertise and did experience conflicting advice.  They have used three companies and now have a preferred consultant

F. Local authorities

  • it was noted that LAs are already working with the Scottish Government on the schools estate
  • housing and schools cover a significant proportion of the LA estate
  • some LAs have undertaken desktop and some physical inspection which has identified a small number of buildings with RAAC
  • LAs recognise the benefit of coordination and a more consistent approach to reporting

G. Public bodies

  • officials noted the plan to engage shortly with all public bodies – this exercise is intended to ‘fill the gaps’ between the main sector interests and work already underway.  Starting with a definitive list of Scottish public bodies and their key contacts

H. Care homes

  • no report – sector representative not present

I.  Housing

  • housing has challenges when engaging across the sector, in particular, engaging with owner occupiers and small individual landlords
  • work is at the discovery stage for social housing
  • it was suggested that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations be invited to group

Action point 2 - Suggest engaging with Scottish Federation of Housing for social housing representative

J. Prisons - No report – sector representative not present.

K. Courts - No report – sector representative not present.

L. Government estate

  • officials noted a similar experience as for health buildings
  • condition surveys were carried out in 2018-21, but it did not make reference to RAAC, which indicates a lack of awareness from consultants
  • a concern over the lack of consultants in this area was expressed as was noted by others; it would be useful to investigate this area further
  • most buildings in the estate came from the UK Government pre-devolution, there is question of whether or not RAAC was seen as a risk material under the UK Government regime
  • it was noted that a significant portion of the Government estate is rented
  • officials have appointed a consultant to scope out the survey approach and a likelihood approach

Coordination and data collection

Officials noted the plan to create a small, dedicated team to manage the coordination and data centralisation.  It should also assist in developing any themed activities around information and communication.  The new team will be short-lived, anticipated to run for 6 to 12 months.

Any other business

Scope of WG activity 

An attendee asked if the CSWG could look ahead to skills and capacity for future remediation work.  Or the coordination of remediation with ongoing works in affected organisations within maintenance and development schedules.  Officials noted that the focus would be mainly on capacity within industry around assessment.

An attendee noted, on the ToR, whether those looking at responses can share good practice and case studies.  Again official asked attendees to feedback on ToR in the next couple of weeks.

Engagement exercise 

On the scope of the engagement exercise, an example was made of the opportunity to engage with GP and NHS services delivered by third parties who may rent properties.

Publication of information from the group

Noting the intent to publish information, Officials will develop a proposal to host information on a new MWG webpage, including publication of papers and minutes.  Noting that minutes will follow the Chatham House rule.  An attendee noted the need to review and redact and any commercial information present in information exchanged.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 20 September 10am to 12pm.

Back to top