DfE Funding For Portable Cabins Amid School Concrete Crisis

Quality Portable Cabin

The Department for Education (DfE) has made funding available for portable cabins to schools affected by the crumbling concrete crisis. Over 156 schools so far have been forced to close or relocate classrooms at short notice after concerns were raised about the safety of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

It has emerged that at least one school building was affected by a sudden collapse over the summer, sparking fears that many others could be at risk. Any school that has been identified as containing RAAC has been told to close off affected areas, or close completely and teach pupils in temporary portable buildings.

The Times reports that the DfE initially said that schools would have to fund the costs of temporary accommodation themselves, but the guidance has now been clarified. Schools can apply for financial support to cover the cost of renting modular buildings, or other alternative sites such as community halls or empty offices.

RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete that was widely used as a construction material for public buildings between the 1960s and the 1990s. It is made from fine aggregate and is injected with gas bubbles to create an aerated centre, which looks like the centre of an Aero chocolate bar.

The vast majority of buildings contain RAAC in the form of flat roof panels, which are considered difficult to access, maintain and replace. When properly designed, installed, and maintained, RAAC is considered safe, but it is now present in many buildings that are at least 50 years old and are showing signs of wear and tear.

It is thought that thousands of other public buildings in the UK potentially contain unsafe RAAC, including hospitals, court houses, police stations, and council offices.

Professor Goodier, an expert in Construction Engineering and Materials at Loughborough University, said: “Like many countries, the UK has an old building stock, which needs to be adequately repaired and maintained. In the post-war period the country built numerous new buildings with a variety of different methods, many of which are now feeling their age.”

He added: “It is RAAC from the 1950s, 60s and 70s that is of main concern, especially if it has not been adequately maintained.”

“RAAC examples have been found with bearings (supports) which aren’t big enough, and RAAC with the steel reinforcement in the wrong place, both of which can have structural implications. Prolonged water ingress (not uncommon on old flat roofs) can also lead to deterioration.”

School leaders searching for temporary accommodation will be aware of the benefits of hiring modular buildings, which can be installed on a suitable base in a matter of weeks and with minimal disruption to daily operations. They are energy efficient and compared to a bricks and mortar structure, they are easy and affordable to maintain.

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