Anyone who has been watching the news over the past couple of months would have heard of the problems that we are having in the UK with RAAC.
Although it seems to be principally affecting public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and police stations, there is also the possibility that other buildings could be affected by it. And that includes commercial property.
Whether you are renting a commercial property or are a commercial property landlord, it is important to know about RAAC, how to identify it, how it could affect your property, and, of course, what to do if you find that you do have some present in your property.
What is RAAC?
RAAC stands for Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete. It was popularly used between the 1960s and 1980s to build numerous buildings – both publicly and privately owned. Although the RAAC was not commonly used after 1982, some buildings still included it. It was developed to be used as a lightweight alternative to regular concrete and is made from a mixture of cement, blast furnace slag, pulverised fuel ash or silica flour, water, and aluminium powder.
Chemicals are used to incorporate gas bubbles into the cement, making it lighter and thermally insulating. The substance is then put into a mould and heated to achieve the best shape for the construction.
Planks were then made from this material, giving it the name, RAAC. Since the aerated concrete is not as dense as regular concrete, it does not have the same strength, and this is where the problems begin to come in.
Due to the fact that the substance is not as strong as regular concrete, metal rods and hooks were used to hold the RAAC in place. The material does not protect these metal rods and hooks from corrosion, running the risk of corrosion.
It was stated in 1999 that the lifetime of RAAC is 30 years, which is why we are seeing it as such a potential issue at the moment. In the majority of cases, RAAC has been used to build internal partition walls, roof decks, and floors as well as external walls, which could affect the structure of the building.
There is, unfortunately, no official register of buildings that use RAAC in their construction. This makes it more difficult to identify. This means that identifying RAAC will come down to either knowledge of the construction of the building or an independent survey.
There are, however, some factors that can help you to identify RAAC if you think that you have it in your commercial property. According to the Department of Education, RAAC:
- Is typically fit in 600mm wide panels
- Is normally coloured pale grey or white
- Has an inside of the plank that looks bubbly – similar to an Aero bar,
- Has V-shaped grooves on each plank,
- Could be labelled on drawings as Celcon, Durox, Hebel, Siporex, Xella or Ytong,
- Will not have any (visible) stones within it.
RAAC panels are soft to the touch. If you press a screwdriver into it, a dent will be made. This is another good way to begin to identify RAAC. It is important to be aware, however, that it is very common for buildings with RAAC present to also have asbestos present. You should take care not to touch anything that you believe to be asbestos – or that you think may be asbestos.
What to do if you Find RAAC in your Commercial Property
If you are a commercial property tenant or landlord, regardless of whether it is an office space, workshop, retail unit, warehouse, or other genre, you will have responsibilities if you suspect that there is RAAC in the building.
The first step is to get a professional assessment in order to determine whether you have actually got RAAC present. This should also include a risk assessment and if there is any urgent action required, this should be carried out immediately.
The inspection and risk assessment can be very thorough and could cause disruption to the commercial property tenants within the building. Here at Boxpod, we recommend that you try to work in collaboration between the tenant or landlord to minimise disruption and resolve the issue as quickly and easily as possible.
Once an assessment has been carried out, you will receive information about the next steps to take. This might involve putting new and additional support into the property in order for it to be made safe. It might be the case that the property needs to be vacated, or it might be identified but deemed as safe at the moment with a need for further monitoring.
There is government guidance relating to how RAAC should be dealt with depending on your specific sector.
Who is Responsible for What?
When it comes to RAAC and the law, it is relatively simple.
A business has a responsibility for the safety of its staff and visitors under health and safety legislation and Occupier’s Liability acts. These regulations apply to businesses that are renting a commercial property as well as landlords who look after common areas, and owner-occupiers.
Usually, landlords are responsible for looking after the structure of their commercial property and could be liable for any harm that is caused to their tenants. It is sometimes the case, however, that some tenants take responsibility for the structure of the property and its maintenance and repair and, in this case, this would also include dealing with RAAC.
There has been a lot of alarm about RAAC in recent weeks – especially as it has been primarily reported in schools. It is important that you check your commercial property for RAAC if you believe that it could be an issue, and deal with it swiftly. However, there is not normally any need for immediate alarm as long as you rectify it as quickly as possible.
If you are looking to rent out your commercial property, or are a business looking for your next base, take a look at our website and see if we can find you your perfect match.