Corporate Statement: Response to NAO reports
Date published

14 July 2023

The Institution of Structural Engineers The Institution of Structural Engineers
Corporate Statement: Response to NAO reports
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Corporate Statement: Response to NAO reports

Date published

30 June 2023: Statement from the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) about the National Audit Office (NAO) reports: "Condition of school buildings" and "DfE sustainability overview".

“Publishing both reports together is important to understand the big picture regarding the safety and sustainability of buildings and to protect the immediate and long-term future of the pubic in developing solutions.
“It is timely that the NAO has placed RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) top of its recommendations in the Condition of school buildings, with the DfE to determine ‘when, and through what means, it plans to have fully dealt with RAAC as a safety issue across the school estate so that it is no longer a critical risk.’
“Building safety is paramount and our key objective. We created a RAAC study group to investigate this issue and its findings are widely used in the report. We are also  committed to sharing information about RAAC to raise awareness, having published guidance in March 2022 and April 2023 about this to enable building managers and their consultants to manage the situation. This is a complex issue and it is important to employ competent individuals to identify and manage RAAC such as Chartered or Incorporated Members to do this work.”
Commenting on the NAO’s DfE sustainability overview, IStructE says: “The NAO’s timely and relevant recommendations will help the DfE achieve their Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy.
“It’s positive that the NAO has found the DfE recognises the safety risks within the school estate, with capital funding needed to manage this ‘with sustainability integrated where there is an opportunity to do so.’ (Key finding 13, page 8). That opportunity must always be secured to avoid future climate risk, especially given the finding that the DfE is still working to understand the climate risks schools are exposed to. This knowledge is essential to managing climate action and mitigating safety and climate risks now and for the future.
“The School Rebuilding Programme should proactively consider the reuse of safe existing buildings rather than demolishing and starting again to minimise climate and user disruption where appropriate. Choosing to reuse and upgrade the performance of an existing asset can halve the embodied carbon associated with a project, and often saves even more than that. This can be done whilst insulating, upgrading and modernising the building as required.”
About RAAC and concrete
RAAC is a highly aerated, lightweight, concrete based material, with engineering properties lower than conventional concrete. It was typically used in precast panels in walls and roofs and sometimes floors. Problems associated with older forms of the construction include high deflection, corrosion and spalling and where there is low end bearing the possibility of sudden collapse due to cracking. It has been estimated that RAAC planks have a serviceable life of around 30 years.
However, traditional concrete is a highly reliable material with high compressive strength, that when combined with steel reinforcement to become ‘reinforced concrete’, has the ability to form some of the world’s biggest and heaviest loaded structures ranging from high-rise buildings, to bridges, dams, and nuclear power stations. 
IStructE has issued guidance about RAAC to enable building managers and their consultants to manage the situation, and established a RAAC working study group.
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For further information please contact:
The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) Newsroom on +44 (0)7930 345543.
Notes to Editors
About the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE):
The Institution is the world’s largest membership organisation dedicated to structural engineering. Professional membership is one of the leading global benchmarks of competence and technical excellence. Members undergo rigorous technical assessment and commit to continual learning and development. The Institution drives higher standards and shares knowledge because its members’ work is vital to public safety and meeting the challenges of the future. The Institution provides a voice for its members, promoting their contribution to society as innovative, creative problem solvers and the guardians of public safety.