Edinburgh City Council is facing an immense bill of up to £50 million to address safety concerns arising from the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in eight schools and four additional council-owned properties. The urgent need for remedial action follows widespread closures and partial closures of schools across the UK last year due to concerns over the structural integrity of buildings constructed using the deteriorating material.
Experts had persistently cautioned about the risks associated with RAAC, an economical construction material widely employed in public buildings until the 1980s. The lightweight concrete has been deemed life-expired, posing a potential threat of sudden collapse. The financial burden of remedial works in Edinburgh alone is projected to reach £50 million, with an immediate expenditure of £15 million expected in the next three years and an additional £36 million set aside for long-term costs.
A recent report presented to the finance and resources committee outlines the comprehensive efforts undertaken to address the crisis. The estimated costs encompass ongoing inspections, scaffolding hire, temporary remedial measures such as propping of RAAC panels, and further survey work aligned with structural engineering guidance.
Trinity Primary School is among the affected institutions, with some pupils relocated to temporary classrooms due to RAAC concerns. The school requires a roof replacement for the affected area, with costs estimated at £3.8 million for both phases and temporary classroom hire. Similarly, Cramond Primary School necessitates a roof replacement, costing around £2.9 million, including classroom hire for affected learners.
Lorne Primary School faced challenges with crumbling concrete in the entire roof area. While inspections revealed the upper floor ceiling was in good condition, long-term options, including a potential roof replacement at a cost of up to £3 million, are under consideration.
Fox Covert/St Andrew’s Primary School experienced closures in the gym hall and dining hall, expected to reopen in early 2024. The complexity of replacing RAAC in the longer term is acknowledged in the report, with strategic factors such as future demand for places and housing developments requiring detailed appraisal.
Colinton Primary School and Pentland Primary School are planning phased approaches for the replacement of RAAC roofs, estimated at £2 million and £3.102 million, respectively. Currie High School discovered crumbling concrete in the old gym block, assembly hall, and an art classroom, all of which remain closed. Plans for reopening the assembly hall are contingent on ongoing detailed inspections.
The former Darroch Annex Building at James Gillespie’s High School may face demolition due to RAAC identified in a small extension, estimated to cost between £250,000 and £500,000. At Peffermill Depot, a small isolated area of RAAC has been identified, and long-term plans include its demolition as part of a broader regeneration program.
The total expenditure in addressing the crisis to date stands at just under £2 million, underscoring the escalating financial burden faced by Edinburgh City Council. The report emphasizes the need for careful consideration of long-term options, ranging from roof replacements to the potential replacement of entire schools, as the council grapples with the extensive repercussions of RAAC usage in public buildings. The estimated long-term costs associated with RAAC are projected to be between £20 million and £30 million, posing a significant challenge to the council’s financial planning and resource allocation.