Insurance cover implications of RAAC
Recent press coverage relating to the risk of collapse in schools has brought the subject of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete to prominence. The risks related to RAAC have been already identified in certain sectors such as the NHS whose large maintenance and estates teams have generally established procedures to manage the exposure. Much of the RAAC present in existing buildings today is now potentially beyond its lifespan and may be prone to collapse, particularly if it has been exposed to water.
What is RAAC?
RAAC – Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete is a lightweight cement-based material used extensively in roofs, walls and floors of UK buildings from the 1950’s to 1990’s.
RAAC is much less durable than standard concrete, with an estimated lifespan of 30 years. RAAC is typically found in large commercial and public buildings such as hospitals, schools and Universities.
Insurance cover implications
Buildings insurance is designed to cover damage caused by sudden and unforeseen events. Ordinary ‘wear and tear’ is usually expressly excluded. The RAAC issues could be considered foreseeable deterioration in a building’s structural integrity.
Where damage occurs, it will be a matter of expert evidence as to the impact of contributing factors. This could include considerations such as whether the damage was due to inherent weakness of insured property and/or accidental loss partly caused by external influences.
Policies may potentially cover consequential damage to contents and interruption but are unlikely to cover the buildings damage and rectification unless a sudden, unforeseen external event has caused the issue.
Liability risk will need to be considered in respect of the activities undertaken in the relevant building, output of structural surveys and risk assessment to consider the safety of employees and members of the public in the area where RAAC is present.
What will insurers consider?
RAAC construction could make buildings more vulnerable to collapse resulting from fire or other insured perils and so to assess their potential exposure it is likely that underwriters will ask questions such as:
- Do you have a list of properties with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)?
- What is the general inspection/maintenance regime relating to the areas where RAAC is present and what records are held?
- Has the building been closed, and if so, what security measures are in place?
- Has any temporary accommodation been added to the site, and if so, what is the proximity to the existing structures?
- What temporary mitigation measures have been taken to ensure the structural integrity of the building?
- Is there a timeline on replacement of the RAAC?
- Has a contractor been appointed for the replacement works and if so, please provide the contract value?
Underwriters will consider other factors such as the occupancy, location and accumulation of buildings in a range and underwriting aspects such as the deductible level when reviewing their exposure.
Risk Management Best Practice
From a risk management perspective, it is important that all RAAC is identified within each building. RAAC is a lightweight aerated form of concrete likely to be found in roofs, floors and walls. Typical features of RAAC include 600mm wide concrete panels, distinctive ‘V’ shaped grooves at regular spacing, and generally white or light grey in colour (where not painted).
RAAC panels tend to be very soft and can be indented with relatively light pressure. There may also be evidence of bowing in the panels.
Surveys and Remedial Action
Once RAAC has been identified, surveys need to be undertaken by either a qualified building surveyor or structural engineer, with experience in RAAC materials.
The surveys will identify the appropriate remedial measures to be taken in each building. This may include propping and additional structural support for floors and ceilings. The survey may identify that continuing to allow access to these areas presents too great a risk to safely continue operations. The survey will also provide guidance in relation to the ongoing management of the RAAC, including long-term removal.
Further guidance on construction issues is available via our bespoke online risk management portal Risk Management platform, RMworks, which provides additional resources to assist your organisation.
If you have any questions about the contents of this article or would like to discuss a how your cover applies and how we would recommend managing the risk, please click below to submit your enquiry to Griffiths & Armour Risk Management Director, Simon Stafford.