Heathrow and Gatwick airports detect Raac in their buildings as more than 100 schools forced to shut classrooms

8 September 2023, 16:34

Gatwick and Heathrow are aware of Raac in their structures
Gatwick and Heathrow are aware of Raac in their structures. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Heathrow and Gatwick airports have found concrete that has forced schools to shut classrooms due to fears of collapse.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Britain's busiest international airports said they realised Raac (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) was present before the schools fiasco began last week.

Schools have had to close buildings and take children into temporary accommodation while remedial works are carried out in the UK's latest crisis.

Heathrow found the material in Terminal 3 last year, and has carried out some work while it considers a permanent fix. It still believes its original plan is sufficient despite the schools crisis.

"Industry has been aware and acting on the remedial steps that should be taken in buildings that contain this material," it said in a statement to the FT.

"Passenger and colleague safety will always be our first priority. We will continue to update stakeholders across the sector as our plans for permanent solutions progress."

Read more: Shadow education secretary fails to pledge Labour will spend ‘whatever it costs’ to rebuild schools with unsafe concrete

Gatwick Airport is aware of Raac in its building
Gatwick Airport is aware of Raac in its building. Picture: Alamy

Gatwick said: "We have a register of locations containing Raac on the airport campus, which are closely monitored through a regular comprehensive structural inspection regime."

It added: "Our most recent inspection in June 2023 did not present any concerns and we will continue to monitor on a regular basis."

Read more: Utility firms asked if they could supply temporary classrooms for five years amid school concrete crisis

Checks are also being made at Manchester Airport.

Raac was used in public buildings from the 1950s to the 1990s, but it has caused concerns that it has a limited life - some possibly being only good for 30 years before they need mitigation or monitoring.

Engineers believe the biggest concerns are for poorly-maintained buildings where few upgrades - if any - have been made over the years.

Raac is within Heathrow's Terminal Three
Raac is within Heathrow's Terminal Three. Picture: Alamy
Work on Raac is being carried out in schools
Work on Raac is being carried out in schools. Picture: Alamy

Chris Goodier, a Raac expert and professor of construction engineering and materials at Loughborough University, said the risk is lower in airports because they have larger and dedicated maintenance teams.

In 2018, a school in Gravesend, Kent, saw a partial roof collapse in a staff room, then officials reportedly became concerned over whether the material could crumble without signs of deterioration.

A list of 147 schools identified to have Raac was published by the Department for Education on Wednesday, but there were fears more schools could hold it.

Parents were furious that changes had to be made to their children's education just days before the new school year started.

They were incensed that the full list was not initially published, with the Department for Education insisting parents should hear about it from schools instead of the government.