New Zealand / Education

Dodgy concrete product causing English schools to close unlikely to affect NZ schools

06:26 am on 3 September 2023

Photo: 123RF

The use of a concrete product that has closed more than 100 schools in England over safety concerns is unlikely to be an issue here, the government says.

The schools were told to close buildings with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) because they could be prone to collapse, as the product weakened over time.

But in Aotearoa, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said it was available here for use in both residential and commercial buildings, and products themselves were rarely unsafe.

Building performance and engineering manager Dave Gittings said safety concerns would only arise if the concrete had not been used correctly.

"[MBIE] has not been made aware of any use of these products where they do not meet the performance requirements of the New Zealand Building Code.

"Nor have we been made aware of the evidence referenced in the articles regarding the UK installations of these products."

Each building's consent application was reviewed on a case-by-case basis, he said.

"The Building Consent Authority (BCA) would review the compliance requirements as per the specific design for each building and the prescribed use of each product within the context of that particular case.

"It is the BCA's responsibility to ensure compliance is shown within the building consent and reviewed during their inspections."

Ministry of Education infrastructure leader Scott Evans said he was aware of the issues with the use of RAAC in construction of English schools between the 1950s and mid-1990s, but it did not seem to be a problem here.

"While we do not record specific building products used in school buildings, the product was not widely used in New Zealand during this period and it is not believed to be have been in use in New Zealand state schools."