How Modular Buildings Helped Following RAAC Discoveries in UK Schools

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) became a term that struck fear and worry into the hearts of many parents across the UK in 2023.

It emerged that this potentially dangerous building material was present in schools up and down the country, with potential disaster on the horizon if no action was taken by the Government.

The crisis prompted sudden school closures in some areas but is now on the road to a solution.

What is RAAC?

RAAC is a prefabricated building material formed by adding a foaming agent to an autoclaved aerated concrete mix. This creates a lightweight, heat-insulating material ideal for quick construction.

The foaming agent creates a ‘bubbly’ surface texture – and it is this that is the root cause of potential issues surrounding RAAC.

Moisture can work its way into the material more easily via the uneven surface, while its lightweight nature means it is then liable to collapse when weakened. This discovery – and the presence of it in a large number of UK schools – prompted swift fears that children and teachers could come into harm.

How many schools have RAAC?

A total of 234 education settings in the UK have had RAAC as part of their construction. Some of these may have been originally built with the material, or it may have been added in refurbishments and extensions.

Just one school in Staffordshire, Sir Thomas Boughey Academy in Halmer End, is included on the Government’s list of confirmed sites and was listed to receive a grant to fix the issue.

Solving the problem

The Department of Education faced a monumental task ahead in ensuring the safety of students and staff in schools with RAAC cladding. The government has pledged to “spend whatever it takes to keep children safe” and fund the removal and replacement of the faulty material.

Some schools, such as Sir Thomas Boughey Academy, received grants to remove smaller-scale amounts of RAAC from their settings. Those that required significant solutions, such as rebuilding and refurbishing structures could apply for the School Rebuilding Programme.

Modular buildings as a short-term solution

This is where modular building hire can play a crucial role. Modular buildings, also known as prefabricated buildings, are constructed off-site in sections, and then assembled on location. This rapid construction method offers advantages in the context of the RAAC crisis:

  • Speed: Modular buildings can set up significantly faster than traditional brick-and-mortar construction. This minimises disruption to ongoing school activities and allows students to be quickly relocated to safe, temporary classrooms.
  • Scalability: Modular buildings can be designed in various sizes and configurations to accommodate the specific needs of each school. This flexibility ensures there is a solution for schools requiring extra classrooms or a complete temporary school building.
  • Cost-effectiveness: While not always the cheapest option in the long run, modular buildings can be a cost-effective solution for short-term needs. This is particularly relevant considering the urgency of addressing the RAAC issue.