The UK’s largest private landlord will inspect its older buildings to check for dangerous concrete, which has caused the closure of hundreds school buildings in the last week.
Mark Allan is the chief executive officer of Landsec. He said that the company has exposure to buildings constructed in the 50 years following the Second World War. It plans to renovate them and will “definitely” survey these to determine if they contain Raac, or reinforced autoclaved-aerated concrete.
“It’s incumbent on every responsible property owner to take some time to investigate where they might be exposed,” he said, adding that the surveys were likely to focus on a few buildings in Landsec’s portfolio built in the 1970s.
The move follows the Institution of Structural Engineers’, a professional organization, advice to owners of older commercial property that they should “conduct an inspection of the building in order to identify or eliminate” the possibility of Raac. Raac is a lightweight concrete prone to collapsing.
Raac, which was primarily used by the public sector from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, was also widely used for commercial office buildings, stores, factories, and warehouses. This was according to Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association.
He added that there were no data on its prevalence in private industry. He said that it was impossible to determine the cost or time required to remediate the buildings.
Matt Neave said that due to the lack of regulation and information governing Raac’s use in the private sectors, owners were unaware of the risks associated with Raac failures.
He said that “the majority of owners and occupants of commercial building are completely unaware and have no idea whether this risk is present or how to manage it.”
Mark Reynolds, the head of Construction Leadership Council (a government-industry advisory body), said that it has not yet identified any private sector buildings at risk.
He added that this situation would change once “individuals and companies begin to investigate the risks or become aware”,
Raac has been under threat of failure and corrosion for decades. Maintenance is the key, according to Professor John Kelsey of University College London, an expert on construction economics.
The material has been used extensively in Germany and Japan and “with good construction, maintenance and design it has performed satisfactorily”, he said.
Francis said that better maintenance in commercial properties would mean fewer Raac issues for the private sector.
He added that commercial and industrial developers were more likely to have addressed these issues in their ongoing maintenance and repairs or when upgrading the buildings to attract new renters.
In the public sector it is common to extend the life of a building beyond its original design in order to avoid large capital costs.
The trade bodies said that they did not know the full extent of the risk in the private sector.
Verity Davidge is the director of policy for Make UK which represents manufacturers. She said: “We haven’t seen this on our radars yet but we are keeping a close eye.”
British Retail Consortium: It would be “inaccurate to suggest that there is a systemic problem in the sector.”
The British Property Federation (which represents the industry) declined to comment.