At the start of September, the big joke was that the traditional pictures of schoolchildren in their new uniforms were being supplemented by hard hats, but to many the crisis of reinforced aerated autoclave concrete (RAAC) has been no laughing matter.
The initial figure given in England was 156 affected buildings, with mitigations already in place in over 50 and more being hurriedly fitted in 104, many of which were partly or fully closed for a while.
However, the number has continued to rise as more inspections have come through, taking the latest tally to 174. Thankfully, however, just one school remains fully closed and providing remote education, although 20 more are adopting a hybrid remote and classroom approach as work is carried out.
With the weather set to get colder soon, warm, secure buildings will be needed in cases where more than just a little structural work is required. That is where steel frame building kits could be extremely useful.
The number required for schools may be low, but the RAAC crisis is much wider. A number of hospitals, business premises, theatres and university buildings have had issues with crumbly concrete.
While many of these issues have already been addressed, there will be some buildings where so much RAAC is in place that it makes more sense to replace them.
Others could benefit from having replacements in place for an extended period of time, something steel kit buildings could offer. For example, the Withybush Hospital in Pembrokeshire is now down to 50 per cent bed capacity and will be closed for the rest of this year and most of 2024 due to RAAC. New capacity delivered swiftly may prove invaluable.
Of course, many steel buildings are constructed for utility rather than comfort, such as agricultural buildings. But a lot of substantial and permanent structures have steel frames. Such buildings will certainly be more robust than those blighted by the crumbling ticking timebomb that is RAAC.