Reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) was identified in various areas of the University last week, just as welcome week was about to kick off.
RAAC is a material that was frequently used in buildings between the 1950s and 1990s as a cheaper alternative to regular concrete.
It comes as RAAC has been recently found in universities and schools all over the country, leading to the closure of many buildings as the material is “liable to collapse”.
A structural safety inspection was carried out on campus on Wednesday, September 6, the day before Freshers’ Week events officially began.
The discovery means that everything on the upper floor of the Union will be closed until further notice, including the Chaplaincy, Studio bar, all staff offices and the media office.
The closure of the media office has caused much concern for the media societies which store equipment in the space.
The Union alerted societies at 2pm on Thursday that they must collect anything they need by 5pm that same day.
On Friday, they were contacted again to say that committee members were allowed access to the Union on Monday, September 11, from 2pm to 4pm only.
AirTV is one of the clubs which use the media office.
President Maisie Pirrie told Brig: “These developments are concerning not only for AirTV but for the University as a whole.
“These closures leave our society without a room to operate from, and despite being able to rescue some of our equipment, we have not been provided with a safe place to store it.
“This has forced us to house it in our members’ homes which are a drive away from the university and less secure. This is very frustrating as we do not know yet how long this will go on for.”
StirPod also stores its equipment in the Union.
Chloe Liddell, StirPod president, spoke to Brig as she came to salvage some of what the podcast society owns:
“There’s not that many of us [in StirPod], I was the only one who could’ve done it and I don’t really have the space to house our equipment…
“We have events coming up and I’m hopefully just going to be able to get as much as I can.
“We just need more information about when we’re going to be able to get the rest of our stuff.”
Starbucks and Venue on the lower floor are able to remain open, meaning freshers week was not entirely called off.
A spokesperson from the Union said on Wednesday night that these areas “will be open and safe for students” and that Starbucks will offer a limited menu.
They added that “a range of evening activity” will still go ahead as part of welcome week.
This meant that some events were moved from Studio to Venue and capacity limits had to be lowered for evening entertainment.
The spokesperson concluded: “This news has obviously come as a shock to us and we thank you all for your patience – we are gutted as it isn’t the start to the term we’ve been hoping for but rest assured we’ll do all we can to still make it’s a welcome to remember.”
Additionally, the University made its own announcement via the student portal on Thursday:
“In response to the new guidance, the University has conducted a review of its estate and is working with specialists, including onsite structural engineers, to carry out further investigations where necessary.
“The safety of our community is paramount and, as a precautionary measure, and to allow further assessments to take place, a very limited number of areas in the Atrium, Students’ Union, and Cottrell Building have had access restricted.
“Assessments are ongoing and there is the potential for further temporary restrictions to be introduced. “The use of RAAC in buildings is localised and, therefore, spaces adjacent to affected areas can remain open. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by these temporary restrictions.”
Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Boomer